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December 29, 2022 105 mins

The one and only! Taj is serving as the NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence for 2022-23. Intelligent, feisty and as sharp as ever, Taj tells us about growing up, his adventures with major labels and independents, and how he has sustained his career all these years. Revered by his compatriots, this is a chance to experience the magic of the man himself!

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome back to the Bob Left Sets podcast.
My guest today is Taj Mahals. You're the n YU
artist in residents. Tell me about that. Well, it's it's
uh something that's pretty exciting, you know, to be uh

singles out and asked to be uh, you know, bring
what it is that I do to a group of
young students that prestigious university. I'm a I'm a you know,
stoked to be able to do it and be a
part of it. So what exactly is it you will
be doing? Um, explaining some of the music that I play,

showing some of the styles, showing how what kinds of
connections they are, you know, I mean, it's a tremendous
amnomus have been brought into this hole. Um. You know
the dia spoard that's here between um, the Western Hemisphere
and uh the continent of Africa and the European intervention

to see that we all got over here and all
the music that's been created as a result of that movement,
and you know, and now it's sort of somehow it's
like the rails that the world works on in terms
of music from from the West. Look, can you go
a little deeper and tell us about that, go a

little deeper. Uh um No, I mean there's there's there's
not much more. As a as a kid growing up,
you know, I hear music from the Caribbean or South
because I have Caribbean relatives of my Fotherish people and
my mother's people are from the American soil. So it's
kind of an interesting thing. There's a kid to grow

up with parents who two told you that gave you
a good you know, foundation to be able to move
forward in the world that you know, there was nothing
that you couldn't do. Uh. There may be people in
this world who may doubt you or or may me
not right to your face, tell you that they don't

think that you're of any value. Ignore all of its
absolutely meaningless, you know, and do something that is worthwhile
with your life. You know that has something to do
with community, you know, you know, something for humanity. And
so as a kid listening to music, you know, I
would hear music like from South America, Central America, or

the Caribbean or or you know, some other place like
that that was close to my own culture or you know,
d NA have not even talked about that during that time,
and uh, I wonder why I already knew what I
was listening to. Maybe not the language, but I certainly
could feel the music and feel where it was coming from.

And then you know, the same went for the basically
placed to save value when it was on music that
came from Europe and in Great Britain. If it moved me,
then obviously it was something I needed to know about.
And so you know, talking to a lot of these
young kids who who maybe only experienced commercial music, you know,

and kind of trying to help them expand past that
one and a half you know, ticks on either side
of what you've been listening to get him the thing
outside the box. So you had a big birthday this year.
How does it feel to be this age? Cool? My
plumber still works, I'm still excited about waking up every day,

and I'm still learning stuff about music and still composing
and you know, enjoying life. So what wisdom? You know,
we live in a youth oriented culture, but those of
us who have gotten older, and you've now reached eighty,
you gain a lot of insight into life. Can you
give us anythings that you've learned going through eight decades already.

Oh yeah, be true, be very true to your you know,
when you discover what it is that you want to do,
you know, just be true to it. You know, stay
on your course. Stay your course, man, you know, set
your course. But whatever it is that you think that
you want to do, you know. And and like Yoda,

do or not do but don't try? Yeah, and what
can you tell us about love relationships? Well, I'm this
is the question of it. So now why are you
asking me these things? What's this going to amount for you?
I mean, okay, the traditional interviews are you did this,

you did that, what about your new album, etcetera, etcetera.
That's basically worthless because mostly people can listen to the
music and they don't get to know who the person is.
I'm trying to get to know who you are and
the wisdom you have. I'm not trying to put you
on this. No, No, that's okay, that's okay, that's okay,

because you made an assumption coming in that I've never
given that kind of information in an interview, and I
have all along. That's what they cut out. You never
hear about that. You're right, absolutely correct, So now I
know what footing you're on it because it's like, wait
a second, is this this is your life? You know,
just uh okay, sixty four questions. No, I'm you know,

it's like I don't you know, I haven't really like said.
What to do is like find good people, you know,
find find really good people to be around, you know,
I mean number one you want if you're talking about
love relationships, you know, you want to know about a
woman that that that can can Dad's cook you know

it's smart, you know, won't let you be stupid, you know,
and vice versa. You know you know Dad's cook not
be stupid, you know, and uh, you appreciate, appreciate your
your your help when they turned around and say, oh,

you know, I smell gas in to gets you what's
going on? Cut my car won't start, you know, and
really appreciate all those things. Vice versa. You know, when
you get hot headed in the wrong place, that person
knows how to put their hand on put their hand
on your forearm, and immediately you calm down. You know,

somebody really knows what's going on. It takes time to
find those people because a lot of times, you know, man,
they're visually oriented. Sometimes you miss it. You know, listen,
listen to the inside. Let's talk about interacting in the business.
I found. You know, the reputation is, oh, we have

all these flagrant musicians, these stars. I know, the people
who underneath the stars usually have to be nice in
order to work. You're certainly a star. What is it
when do you say no to people in the business
or when do you check yourself and say, I better
be nice because who knows what's going to happen next
time around. I don't really worry about that kind of stuff.

I just do what I do. You know, I've always
been a man of my word, and that's always put
here on earth to kill my My folks really gave
me those kinds of things to work with, you know,
and you know it's it's it's done well for me.
All the way through here. A lot of guys keep
coming in and say they can't get this done, they

can't get that done. Well, I don't know what you're
looking for. I mean, the bottom line is is that
you have an honest, honest approach to everything. And I mean, yeah,
there are people, there are people who have who have
stepped on my toes, and there are people who people
who ses I stepped on invertently without sometimes knowingly and

sometimes not knowing. But hey, at the end of the day,
you know, we're we're all men, and we need to
know how to learn how to get along and do business.
So when you got into the public eye and the sixties,
it was a very different music business than it is today.

If you had a major label deal, they promoted you. Now,
even the biggest artists in the world reach a fraction
of the public. So is it hard to still be
motivated or you know you have your audience, or is
it more about just doing good work. Um, it's hard
when you're coming in in the sixties to really know

you're affair. Yeah, you know, that said to me a
lot of years to really understand what the fact because
you know, like the people who were selling lots of
records during those years. Um, you know, maybe I did
and maybe I didn't. I don't know the numbers. Who do.
You can never depend upon what these guys will tell

you, you you know, and the business is not known for
for being you know, giving you an honest count. But
all those things being you know, set aside. Um, my
focus has always been about the music. That's why I
have the kind of output because if you knew how

much music was out there and not knowing how much
time you have to to put it out, most people
would shut up and be busy and there'd be lots
more music out there, regardless of the renumera isution. You know,
nobody in Africa from where my from, where my DNA
comes from, and where I'm focused being a grill. You know.

One of the things you got to really understand here
is that they scrubbed our hard drives clean five dred
years ago, okay. And so if you're lucky enough and
I'm and I'm and I put my energy under thinking
that I could be able to find the connection between
where I was living, you know, in this you know,

five hundred years and what went on before now. And
I made that connection and found the people, and the
people found me. You know, most people are are don't
have any idea. I mean, it doesn't make it us
what group of individuals you come from that puts you
in the Western world. Everybody's down beaten from five d

years ago, okay. But some people who down beat from
five hundred years ago or maybe two or three hundred
years ago, you know, still know that they have a country,
you know that they can go back to as customs speaks.
The language, you know, has colors that represent them. You know.
In my case, you know that's that's not so, you know,

except I had progressive parents who were about, you know,
making sure I knew that I had a connection beyond
my having out hard drives scrubbed out five years ago.
So all I've been doing is going looking for making
those connections and showing people that they exist, you know,

meaning that there are rio's you know, musicians who are historians,
family and his storians who started in the eleventh century
a d okay, and many of them have seventy to
ninety you know, and even a hundred generations that they
have been the same musician. There's no music business over

the top deciding that if the money comes up to
the top, you know, we'll keep it. If the money
stops coming to the shop, we'll pull up the nets
and then everybody will panic, so, oh my god, there's
nothing here. We're gonna have to come up with something.
As soon as we come up with something, the net
drops down again and the moneyment tricky lays up. I'm
not a part of any of that. What I suggest

for young people to do is that if you love
the music, if you love whatever it is that you do,
you know, if whatever it is that you do you love,
you'll never work a day in your life, or any
work that you do will not be something that you'll
be disappointed in. I mean, how disappointing is it just
spend forty fifties, sixties, seventy eighty years of your life

working with some of something or somebody who doesn't really
care if you, if you exist or not. So I
don't hon't I get pasted all of that, and and
and now I don't. You know, It's like, whatever it is,
we'll figure it out. At one time, it was ox carts,
it was walking, you know, it was os cards and donkeys,

you know whatever. The next thing, you know, people are
flying across over oceans and they don't use them anymore,
but seven sevens whatever they are air busses doing much happening.
So somewhere along the line, something's gonna change. Things are
gonna be different. What really counts knowing how to really
play real music that counts in every every place. Yeah, okay, Uh,

your parents were very progressive to what degree do you
know your own personal history X number of generations back? Um,
I can go back probably like about close to get
closer to the seventeenth century. Wow in one side of
my family. Um um, well I would say, yeah, baby,

maybe more Claire eighteen eighteenth century. And we're we're we're
when we're moving, were progressively moving back via African dna.
Um Um, Actually ancestry DNA got me, got me where
it was where it wasn't West Africa, you know, but

African ancestry puts me squarely in Gabon and so you
know that's where a lot of the energy. And my
mother's side asked some interesting um, interesting Eastern African uh
lineage that came across on the um the land bridge

that was between Russia and uh, you know Alaska. So yeah,
it's a lot of stuff, a lot going on, and
you know, via music what what I can hear and
what I can feel. You know, we've been able to
make a lot of connections. And have you been to Africa, regulars, sir?

Many people have not? Tell it. Tell us what you
learned there? Well, it wasn't what I learned. It is
what I mean basically that uh, I went to seventy nine.
We went we did I think twelve countries in three months,
and then the last time I went back, I went
to Zanzibar recorded, Yeah, I mean it it's soulful, but

but deeper, and you know it's it's it's it's not
living in the first world, which the U s is
is a different reality and living in living on the continent.
You know, a lot of things are all the same,
you know, cities and running water and indoor toilets and

all that kind of stuff that a lot of people
think it's like kids with distinted bellies and flies in
their eyes, and it's uh Sally Strula is saying, oh
my god, twenty back cents a day brings these parts.
You know, it's just media, you know that could be
just there are people in this country. Look at all
these tents, all these homeless here. It looks like a

third world country. If you asked me developing country and
they figure that out, you know, I dare I say,
lots of money goes out of this country to certain
situations that things are in. We have people that are
getting poisoned by the water and flint Michigan and having
difficulty in Jackson, Mississippi. That should be you know, take
care of home first and the rest be okay. But

going going to America was like wonderful, you know, I
was the last few years i've been been, um, you know,
getting preparing myself to go back, you know, go and
visit again, you know, and we'll see. I have friends,
you know, friends in different countries there, and uh they're
always people real happy to receive me. I'll be happy

to be there. So, you know, sixties were time of upheaval,
a lot of civil rights issue as a black man
in America. What's it like today compared to when you
were coming up? Oh? Clearly when I was coming up,

uh crt. You know, it's a it's it's uh as
as dangerous, but but different in in uh more cyberspace,
you know, digital world kind of way. Now, when you

were coming up, you were very much involved with anglos
and white music. And why did you say that? I'm
talking about not in terms of your own personality, the
way you were marketed, okay and working with a lot
of white uh commercial artists. What was it like being

were you the only black guy around or did you
find no, there was a lot of them it's just
that some people, some people didn't understand that you have
to do you have to have a certain kind of
drive and and you can't spend there's a whole bunch
of stuff that you can't spend time, um being emotional about,

you know, because a lot of people because they haven't.
You know, I grew up in New England. Okay, Um,
my dad grew up in New York. His his parents
were immigrants. You know, we grew up in good communities.
You know, different people were different people still part of
the human race. So a lot of guys I didn't

you know, I just didn't. I didn't have that kind
of thing. I was the only black guy there, so
I didn't know that none of that stuff about me.
You know. The point of it was is that is
that I discovered early on that that the older music,
the older Black music, which is like titter scenario, the

music happening and people it gets it gets distorted when, uh,
when someone from another culture decides that you're just this
from your culture is what is economically viable. There are
lots of other things that were viable. The part of

what I was doing, no matter what in the music
that I put out There is always music that maybe
somebody doesn't really understand what it is, but there are
people who do because it's it's cultural, it is. And
you know, I don't do music. I don't do do
music for money. I don't play. I don't perform music

for money. You know what the money comes, the money
comes in to make it, you know, make make my
you know, my uh my traveling from one place to
the next, and be able to handle my responsibilities done,
you know. But but playing nowadays, yeah, there was. It was.
It was a largely white audience that seemed to really

like the older music and be a part of that.
At no time, he ever, wasn't that there was no
room for anybody black in my you know, in my
crew organization, in fact, oftentimes my personal organization you know,
did have you know, at all African Americans. You your staff.

My brother was was my manager. You know, we had
two wasn't ful ladies that worked for me, you know,
you know, but I was, like I said, I don't
have I didn't have any I didn't have no problem
with with people because I came up around lots of
different ethnics, you know, and we all went to school together.
Playing music. I grew up in the Western Massachusetts. Um

you're born in New York, raised in Western Massachusetts. You know, Springfield,
Massachusetts is like maybe like well, I don't know the
terminal on the underground railroad. You know. Lots of people
had different kinds of relationships with their lives. They own homes, businesses,
you know, we're principles of schools round the police force,

you know, I mean all a lot of things that
are in other other you know, parts of the country
where you know, you gotta a force, a police force
that don't look like the people that they're they're dealing with.
You know. Where where it was with us is that, hey,
this is the neighborhood these people living, this is the
neighborhood that should be the you know, the police force

that's dealing with them, you know, and they should look
like that. So a whole lot of things I was
really surprised at. People didn't really have any ideas. You know,
my mother was college graduate from South Carolina State nineteen seven,
you know, in early childhood development. You know, my father's

Caribbean jazz pianist, composer, you know, sharp, smart guy. He
didn't he didn't go to college. But he was well read.
And the two of them, we all have some high
had the same kind of high ideals that a lot
of people in Harlem head back in those days. You know.
I mean it's only the the the ignorance of the

bulk of population at large that has no idea that
these things were going on. You know, how did your
parents meet? Savoy ballroom? Uh during the time of Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella Fitzgerald was like the hot new phenom. She was
there at the Savoy Ballroom playing with u um uh
to chick web bad. My dad was there to deliver
some um some sheet music, you know, some charts for
the band Hawker tunes that he was composing, you know,

get paid, you know. And my mother came there with
a bunch of her girlfriends to hear this incredible pheno
the Savoy Ballroom, the two of him, he saw her,
saw her. That table of women came on over, made
the pitch and here I am ah. And you see,
your mother graduated from South Carolina State in the thirties.

That was an arrow where a lot of people, white
or black didn't go to college. So what was her
family upbringing? Like her mother came to her. My grandmother
came to her marriage with two auntred acres and the phone.
My grandfather, my mother's father, was a was a farmer
in the beginning, and later later on was a tailor

and ran a great cleaning a step you know, you know,
close cleaning establishment. You know that tailored and did all
that kind of stuff. And you know, my mother was
the first one of her family to go to college,
so you know, and when she met your father in
the ballroom, what was she doing for work? Do you remember? Yes,

she was on her hands and knees and Long Island
scrubbing floors. Because of the New York State Board of Education,
I thought we didn't allow the type of education that
she had to be able to be teaching in their
school system. You know, horribly disappointed. She did only the
only thing that women were, you know, black women at

that time were thought they could do. And so she was.
She get on her train every day about the Long
Island scrimped those those floors with the lady who put
on the white gloves going along to the base board
to make sure that was no dirt. And uh, unfortunately,
in the early fifties, with a husband and five kids,

she went back to college and she got her masters
to read from Springfield College. And the reason, the reason
was always so that nobody could ever tell her again
that she didn't have enough credits or enough education to
be able to do the job she did. You know,
like I was saying, is that the town that we
grew up in. You know, we have black principles, black policemen,

you know, I mean, you name it. You know it
was and this wasn't just this was a longside of
everybody else's ethnic groupie represent you know, so you know,
it's a it's a different kind of thing when you
grow up like that. A lot of people they go
off on this side of the town. They don't know
who these people are. The only time they deal with

him is this by way or that way, you know,
so forth and so on. It wasn't that way. I
mean there's a minute that they were you know places
around that you know where people you know, um like
East long Meadow or Agaam or you know long Meadow
where you know they were very well risk. People say

out toward um Hamden, you know, a little a little
small sixteen ten three four or five six ten fifteen
sixty acre, little farmers and kids had horses and ponies
and whatnot. You know, everybody didn't go out there unless
we had something to do, you know, in that space.

But you know, yeah, she that's what she was doing,
you know she was. And she heard a bunch of
kitchen mechanics as they used to call themselves, not cooks
and waiters or whatever, you know, at all ladies at
call going out well, you know, because that was always
like the talk the talk of the town at that moment.

And then your father was from where in the career
of being and what motivated him to move to New
York St. Kitts and he was as my grandfather and grandmother. Hello,
we've had passports in our family on that side of
the of of you know, my father's side of the families.
This nineteen o two when they came up from Saint

Kitts and he was small islands down there. You know,
the the British put a stragglehold on a lot of them,
you know, so when Sugar went out, you know, you
had to find we have find other kinds of jobs
to do. My grandfather, you know, was educated in the
British system. You know, it came came to New York.

Probably my grandmother from from Saint Kitts and New York.
She was on the same thing for her. She was
as a fourteen year old girl. She you know, people
used to leave New England or wherever in the United
States and summertime go on vacation and take their wives
down to the Caribbean and they wouldn't have to cook,

wash clean or make beds and you know, give the
wife um uh vacation while he was out of hustling,
you know, after they spent the year hustling trying to
put them up with his money together, you know. And
I'm just talking about general people from the dominant culture.
So my grandmother, Uh, after a couple of years of

these folks coming down there, she and her sister were
doing all this different work for these people. She was
asked would she like to come to the States and
u and if she came to the States, she could work, uh,
work off her passage with these people. And uh so
they agree to it. She came to the States work

for these folks, and one day my grandfather, who was working, uh,
you know the same thing. He they all thought about
the United States. You know, we're wonderful to be able.
They had their kids there. You know, there'll be American
citizens and not only the grandkids, you know. So I'm
the grandkid, you know, and so and and and rightly,

so they saw how you could, you know, you use movie,
your your vision from generation to generation. So yeah, they
My grandmother was working for these people. She came up.
She was working for him. And one day the house
was hot, she's opening winness, she was dusting. She went
out on the porch. She had been making some tea

and she went out on the porch and sat there
and and it's cooling off. And a guy came by
and looked up at her and said, I know you.
You're from since kids and needles, you know, more like
I know yo you're from, saying she said, oh no,
you don't know me. He said, yeah, yeah, I see you,
ambassador aside from kidon, hear me. This, this is what

you don't know about me. You know, you don't know
my uh, the other voices that existed, you know, the
other people that are there that are you know. But anyway,
she they talked for a while, and so he said,
so you're working for these people. She said yeah. He
said well, you'll never working if you say you marry me,

you'll never work with anybody else. House what's your own? Yeah,
he came, he paid, he paid off the rest of
her dittrid situation, you know, and she never worked for
anybody else. And bore my bore you know, my my father,
my father, and my uncle's Okay, there are five kids
in the family. How many boys, how many girls? Where

are you in that hierarchy? And where are they today?
I'm nailis uh and that in that particular part of
the family. Um they allays said were two boys and
three girls. One one of the one of the boys,
and one of the girls that are deceased. There are
three of us left in that part of the family.

When my my father, unfortunately was tragically killed in nineteen
fifty four in a in an accident with some machinery
in our backyard. And a number of years later my
mother remarried to a Jamaican man who came with three kids.
So there was eight of us and then they had
one in his nine and of that, uh, see what

we got. I think they're yeah four four us, yeah,
four or passed and if five still living And I'm
I'm the eldest. Your father, he made a musician fully
as a musician or a musician was more of a hobby. No,
he was a full He was full a musician and composer.

I was able to corroborate that with Ella Fitzgerald, who
I ran into at a concert she was having and
I was in Hawaii and a friend of mine said
told me that she was there and that she was
she had somebody that was working, um the stage and said, hey,

come on in if you could be quiet, you know,
nominal disturbance, you hear the sound check. So I was definitely.
My mother used to always talk about um, them talking
about my father is as the genius genius right, so um,
you know my mother could be dramatic, you know. So

I mean I didn't say I didn't think. No, I
just didn't know I needed to improve that. There was
a year there, so finally got to go up and
meet meet Ella and I told her, you know what
my dad's name was, and she stopped and looked me
up and down. Oh my god, you are geniuses son.

And I was like, hey, mom, wherever you are, you're right. Yeah.
So how old were you when you moved from New
York City to Springfield. Oh I don't remember that movie
because I was in my mom's arms. It was about
six six months. And what kind of kids were you
growing up? Were you popular? Were you're a loner? We

got to ask sports. Uh no, you know, the sports
were really big. But a lot of times that sports
with these guys was because they didn't have a dad,
you know, so their coach became their sir, your dad.
I had a phomb, you know, we played catch, baseball,

all that kind of stuff. And they were really really
really I mean not that I didn't like the space
the sports guys, you know, um fact, just recently, well
a few years ago, before the pandemic, I ran into
Don Newcombe. You know, I remember having Don Newcomb training
guards right Don Newcomb glove you know, yeah, yeah, Nuke

got a particularly kind of glove to you know all,
you know like that. But not really, I wasn't really
really really in retrospect, I'm looking back, I'll tell you
what I would have really loved to do. I would
have loved to play rugby, I'm telling you, you know,
but it was it wasn't. It's a you know a
classic example of something that you didn't get close to

see what it was, and it had I've been more
involved in the Caribbean side of my family beyond you know,
like socially, in sports and all that kind of stuff,
because you know, we get to our baseball, which is
you know, a voice a version of cricket. You know,
you don't that you know in the in the in

the Caribbean, guys play cricket. But it wasn't only to
a grown man that I was traveling around and it
got to go to England in Australia and New Zealand
and other places where cricket is played and got a
chance to sell U see a Test match and how
this thing works, you know, and go like, okay, there's

another way. But man, I loved I would have loved
to play rugby. I just love that game. And my
favorite team is the New Zealand All Black, particularly the
team during the years when they had that guy showing
a lambo. Man. I'll never forget it that I saw
this guy going down the field. He was eighteen years

old at the time. He had three defenders, one on
one leg, one guy around the waist, and another guy
trying to hold him around the neck. And he was
just plowing down the field. I was like, Okay, that's
a game. I'm like, I like that game a lot. Anyway, No,
I was. I was a lot of fun. I was interested.
And the big thing happened for me was when my

my mother, who yes, I say her mom came to
her marriage with a farm and two hundred acres and
that was an interesting thing to find out how that
all worked in the South at that time. But my
mother knew all that stuff. She grew up knowing you know,
little Howard growth things and you know, you know, grow

up you you know, raise animals and all that kind
of stuff. And then you know, through goring to college
and sophistications, he did all those things too. But that
was on top of a real basic, solid, real woman
you know, who was he was totally accountable for everything
she was up to. And uh, you know, so you know,

all all that, all that served, all that served to
me make my life a really much You're a much
better place, you know. I mean I could go on
and on and on and on. We'll be all day
talking about it. So were you a good student? No,
not so good. Pretty good in the beginning, I say,

But after my dad passed. Uh, it was kind of
traumatized by you know what I mean, And I couldn't
think of I think it was music that got me
through it. And uh, you know, I mean it's sort
of like I go, like from the sixth grade to
the ninth grade. There's the only thing I could hear

in there. What if I look back over that time
is the music. And one thing that a teacher said
to me, not to me, said to a class, he said,
I think it was Mr. Crew and the math class.
He said, you know, and this may have been something
he was doing to try to inspire students to use

more their ability, but he said that you know, most
people never use more than ten percent of their ability
throughout their life, and and that they mostly hang out
somewhere around three and a half, five and a half
maybe six. And I was like, are you serious? I mean,

tell me there's nine out there where, only with people
who are trying to laugh at us, you know, because
who were from Africa and this is what they're dealing off. Well,
thank you very much. I'm glad to hear that kind
of information because if there's nine, then I need to
be busy and I need to never ever be worried
about these fools who want to keep you down there?

Did you start realizing that's when you have a headache,
is when you try to go there to where somebody's
level is to communicate to him, Hey, here it is
the skies, the limit. You better go for it because
all you get is all you got. You got is
all you get, you know, and this is it. So
when did you start playing an instrument? Oh? When I

started sending it, you know. Then piano came somewhere around oh,
I say, seven cades eight maybe eight years, eight years old,
and teacher told my mother, you know, said said mildier,

I wouldn't waste my money on teaching him, try and
teach him how to play pio. She said, well, why
is that? He said, because he already wants to play
boogey woogie And once they get there, there ain't nothing
you can do for, you know. So anyway, I tried
that when piano tried clearing it for a while, um

and then uh uh trombone, h harmonica m M. And
then after the tragedy and my mother remarried. My stepfather
was a Jamaican and uh he unbeknownst to me came
to the house and he hid hire a guitar, and

he was trying to learn how to play in the closet.
And one day while the parents were out um making
market or shopping. Um well, I I was put in
charge of of the of the kids in the house
and so keep them busy. We were playing a great

game with hide and seek, and I hid in in
the hall clock clothes closet, coat closet and got way
back in there. Because it had the way it was
set up and built in the house, you could get
way back in the closet and even people moved the clothing,
they couldn't see you. So I moved back in there
and scooched way back in there, only to have my

back go up against this critics curves. My eyes open wined,
and go like, what what is this? You know, the
only thing that could be is is an instrument. So
I pulled the thing out. Oh my god, he's an
arch top de Ol silver tone. I think it was
guitar tobacco sunburst, you know, tobacco color was sunburst, you know,

and all game over. You know, they can stay out
there forever. I didn't. I didn't even connect I couldn't
believe it, you know. And then I took it out
of the case and there was a doorway across from
the three ways three way. It was like, this is
the closet door, This is the door to the dining room,

This is the door to the placement. I go in
there and pull that door closed and to put this
thing out, and I could hear guitar music in my head.
I knew that they were doing something. There's some Spanish music.
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. You know,
you heard the different things. But how did they make
music out of this system? I couldn't figure it out.

And so I would, you know, break the teeth out
of my mother's old combs, you know, and try to
I knew that they used some kind of pick that
much I did fingers, you know, chords. I don't know nothing,
and so yeah, so I would go into that cellar

door led down to the basement and sit there. And
one day I'm sitting there totally spaced out over the
door opens up. My stepfather says, well, I see you
phoned it. And he never he never challenged me to
put this thing back. It's it's is, don't touch it,

leave it alone, don't leave the house with it. Never hasslee.
And then you know, I mean, I mean you talk
about luck. This is why I stay on my purpose
because you know, it's a gift from your ancestors, you know,
when they send you here, you know, to do your work.

And most people don't think that way, and that's too bad.
They have another guind of life, maybe worse than them.
What works for me is that certain things that'll happen.
My next door neighbor moved in his brother, older brother
and sister in law. We're friends of my dad's and

my mom's, you know, and he moved in next door.
He and his younger broke. Then next story was family
and fourteen from North Carolina, Lynn Perry, Lynn, Lynn Winner
and Leonard Perry. We used to call them Lynwood. The
man can play guitar, yea, no one can play guitar.

He played that really route beautiful blues guitar from down
there and in North Carolina. And you know, over the fence.
One day we just started talking, you know, and you know,
boys bragging, oto bragging, Well what you do well, man,

I do this, well? What about you. I do that. Well,
you got a bicycle, Yeah, I got a wheel. You
know I got a wheel too. You know. You play baseball, Yeah,
I get here, I catch well. Oh yeah, you got
a glove. Yeah, I gotta glove. You got a ball, yeah,
well I got a batman. I got a glove with.

Sometimes we're going down the lockdown streets. Then you hit
something to me, I hit something to you. You know,
blah blah blah. You play marbles, yeah, so far he saw.
Well I play guitar. This is what he says. And
I said, well, I gotta guitar. He said, well, let
me see that guitar. So I went in the house
and brought it out, you know. And he looked at

me and said, you got a pair of flies. And
I said yeah, so we've got a pair of flies.
And he unwinds the wound g string and then he
proceeds to take it all the winding off the string,
and he listen to me. He said, that is how
you make it talk. Okay, that's the next door. His

brother in law was Arthur big boy credits. Yeah next door,
I mean, okay, Oh as good as that, guess. Mississippi
still comes in down the block and around the corner,
you know, was the Nichols family, and you would not
even believe they were from stove All Plantation, Mississippi. Okay.

So I could literally go up the street and here
here Junior Nichols or Ernest Ernest with a guitar player.
Junior could play something, but Ernest set up and play
boogie schilling like he was John Lee Oker, you know.
And this was and not only that Ernest was Ernest
was Jake a car radio, a battery and Jerry rig

D speech speakers, and he'd have an amplifier, you know,
con turned up around, turned down cock, I mean, had
great song and he became a really a really a
great guitar player. He's no longer with us, Yeah, and
neither is Lynn Perry. But those two guys, you know,
mostly Lynn, you know, give me my initiation into the

music that I love. I love was I was love
Jimmy Read Love Love Love Love Jimmy Read. I canna
play that music, you know forever, still their songs of his.
I still want to play workout with the band, y know,
amongst them, as like to call Little Ray. I never

you know, I think I think only the last Bose
album that um Mick Jagger and them guys did. They
did little Ray hard tune to do before, as simple
as it is. But yeah, you know, so I got
to play guitar and you know, doing this and singing
with little singing groups and whatnot. You know, I think

the big you know, and listening to lots of music. Yeah,
you know, all this is coming on. Not that I
knew what their name was, but the Weavers with Goodnight Irene,
you know, the Terriers, y know, the all these different
and you know, Harry Belafonte big in our house, you know,
because so stepfather bringing you know, Mento, you know, and

all those kinds of music. You know, there were Trinity
Dadiens in our town, you know, people from Auckland, you know,
Puerto Rico, Cuba. You know. So it was a lot.
There was a lot to listen to, a lot to feel,
you know. But I felt really strong about the blues,
you know what I mean, represented decide that my mother

game bro you know South. So did you play out
when you were in high school or was it just
a hobby? No? I never was a hobby. I mean,
um uh no, not not too not too much, not

too much fun. I mean, I think we said we
had some more singing groups. Was out playing get to
For me, it was like a personal thing, you know,
not even a hobby, but something that I was trying
to find where that where you where you where the
line was that you could continue, know, just get in
there and get involved and be continue to move forward,

you know. And I'd say that one of the big
one of the big moves came uh when I was
you know, I studied, I studied uh cat of my
husbandry and minor inventionary science and achronomy when I had
dairy technology when I went to the un University of Massachusetts.

And I also had three years from tenth grade to
the twelfth cade in vocational and agriculture high school classes.
So you know, I had I had a different balance
than a lot of the other kids. Did you know.
We didn't have to be in school until the crops
were in, like say early late late October, early November,

and we got out of school um uh in March,
so you start plowing preparing the lands. I like that
a lot. Three months whintos off of him April, May
and June, you know, with off of the year or

maybe this September October anyway, so you didn't have to
go to school that much, maybe a little bit over
four months a year. I love that. In the rest
of the time, you know, you're out on tractors around
the animals up in the country. You know, I'm a
gonna say something about my my mom and dad. Probably
the thing that really let me out to the country

a lot was that my dad used to take my
mom out to the country and there and we all
go take driving the country, you know, you leave out
and they all of a sudden everything opened up, spaces
opened up, more room between farms, you know, gardens, you know, vegetables, hands.
You know. My mother would go out and they buy big,

big push your baskets and create some corn and beans
and all that. And she come back and and we
help her, you know, put you know, snap the beans
and do this and help her prepare stuff. And she
had she put a lot of you know, food up

for the weather she can't, did a lot of cannon
and made jellies, and you know, that's that kind of
stuff where I want, I wanted just just a wonderful
person in terms of you know, nourishing. Her family had
had a really you know, positive and and delectable level,
you know. And in fact, I remember sixteen when I

started to work and go other places. So I had
to really tell myself, now, you know, you're not gonna
find it like like you got it here at all
everyone else, So you know, just just be nice and
enjoy which eat what you can eat. You eat what
you what you like. So did you want to go

to college or family said you should go to college?
And how did you end up studying agriculture? Was that
just something you picked? You said, no, I want to
be a farmer? Mm hmm. I looked at it from
the point answer accept with different questions evolved about farming.
I saw that African people and and our most cultural

situation agriculture. Music. Agriculture was one of the reasons that
we were in the Western hemisphere. This is why people
picked us to be here. Music was something that we
brought along with us, which is what we did. And
that was the old impact I was telling you know,

the hard drive was erased, but some people do enough
to tell their children about who they were before the
hard drive got raised. For most people, so I was
aware of myself and and my dad had worked, and
part of the reason that we lost him was that

he was the type of person that stood up. I
didn't care what the consequences was. This might have been
a better place where he could have going along to
get along, but on principal he couldn't do it, and
that wasn't who he was. Stood up they fired him.
He was working on trying to um create a h

what do you want to call? You want to create
a his own business, independent business. You wanted to have
a contracting business. That's why I had have you have
you equipment around the stuff that busually you know, um,
you know, cause his demand and those are the kind
of energies that were passed to me about, you know,

being independent and doing anything. But the knowledge that you know,
music was something that we did. We used use it
to make our our long walks go, our work go,
all of those things. None of this was lost on
the colonialists, you know, none of this was lost on

the dominant culture who was building building themselves up, you know,
the Western hemisphere, you know. So but for me, knowing
that these things were, we're something that we were predisposed to.
At first, I wasn't interested in going to college. I
felt I could go to the um the elders and

I could, um, you know, learned from them. But then
something came across my mind said, well, wait a minute,
maybe there's something here that you might be able to use.
And why while you're young And as my mother used
to say, father used to say, you don't have child
nor chick. You know what, you know, you it might

get smart thing to go and do this college thing.
And and then you know, by that time, my stepfather
was saying that I look because I said I didn't.
I wasn't interested in Lord and and not on yet,
I was not interested in Gordon for what it was
that they wanted me to go for, you know, not

that they did anything that, but I was just saying
that if I'm gonna go, it's gonna be one I
want to go for, you know. And uh So by
that point in time, um, I had made a decision.
I think between the seventh and the ninth grade to
the eighth grade I made and ask about, you know,

wanting to go to a vocation agriculture school. And they said, hey,
well you asked the eighth grade in the ninth grade,
you still want to do it. Well, we'll work on that,
and they did, and I didn't get to go. And
but now I'm going to college. And you know, my

idea was that, you know these two things, music in agriculture.
People are never gonna never gonna not have it, never
gonna not use it, never never gonna be a part
of it. And you don't like today it'd be you
raise organic vegetables, organic meats, you or you know, fruits,
you know, all those kind of things. You know, some

of the information about this with things that she'd find
out back in those days, you know. And so yeah,
you know that I figured that, hey, either I could
make a living, you know, being in agriculture, play music
on the weekend, make a living in music, and maybe
by myself a farm. You know. I just was like

it was important to me to be my own boss
and to be independent, made my own decision. So you're
going to you Massey Amhurst in the sixties, relatively early sixties,
but it's still a turbulent time. The folks scene is happening.
What was it like in college? And you also started

to play out when you were in college for money, right, Yeah,
we did a little bit of that before, but it
was only mostly like kind of do up, you know,
you're not kind of like four or five musicians of
the band, you know, a group of singing, maybe out
of piano player, maybe one of the guys playing guitar.

You know, you know I did that, But yeah, I
didn't really start playing off. I started playing out mostly
in the in the college set, you know, smith Hammer's College, Um,
rinsel Ere, uh code you know, I'm not cool game

cornell Um, Dartmouth Jops, you know u UM, you know Live,
you know, University of Vermont, you know a lot of
different prep schools. You know, how are you getting the gigs? Oh,

it's really cool. We had um there was a band
called the Lectures and it was to rock and Wayne
Elliott and a guy named Marcel Crudel and uh piano
player damn e is that guy's name? He was Steve.

I don't know Steve's last name. Then there was a
saxophone player named Ray a sueser and um a drummer
named Don Littlefield who was a business major and Don um. Oh,
and then they had a singer I cannot think of

win his name was. He flunked out. So I was
up in the music room met fiddling around with the piano,
and by then, you know, a bunch of us and
bumped into one another on campus, found out who likes
to play music? Who I'm played? You know, we we
have a couple of times. This is when first cut

on campus. A bunchet us got together and the girls
had to be in I think by seven o'clock, six
o'clock and no visitors in a dorman. They were set
up in a kind of a natural campa theater. There's
tour I think there's two four four or six you
know blocks um dormitories for the girls. And so a

bunch of us would get out there with bongos and
guitars and corn monicas and mandolin's and fiddles and you know,
call a tune and play it and you know kind
of like entertain you know. But they had a music
room that had three pianos in it, so I was

I had to figure that got a piano here, got
a lot of time to really kind of work on
some of these tunes. So by then some guys that
see me around playing and this, uh, this guy Don Littlefield,
the the drummer and business major, came in and said, hey,
I mean I hear you you you're you're a singer,

and I said, well, sing a little bit and play.
He said, well, look, our our lead singer flumped out
this semester. You know, we've got some gigs. You know, um,
maybe you can come down and we could play something together,
you know. So I, you know, dressed up and came
down to this fraternity house. And it was kind of

hard for me to play with you know, two guitars
and no bass, piano player, saxophone, and a drummer. I
had not really heard that kind of music where you
didn't you didn't have a drum Well that's not true.
That can go without a drummer, but that music that
they were trying to play definitely needed a drummer in it.

But and the bass player. I'm not a drummer, but
a bass player. That was what was missing. And so
you know, they, uh, I came down there. So then
I started making started bringing all the material that I
knew that they didn't know, all this R and D
and you know, oh jump blues, and they then I said,

you know what, we need a bass player. And they
found this guy, Jack brand Well. I didn't think much
of him at first had terrible sounding bass, and so
then oh just terrible. It's okay, I mean it could
have sounded good. What you needed to take it to
Louthier and have the next straight now and you know
the things set up on it. Um. But anyway, I

suggested to those guys they needed to get some Fender,
some Fender guitars, you know. And so eventually we put
together a kiddy with you know, the gigs that we
were making, and Marcel bought a Fender guitar and Bay
and amp and Jack Moran bought a Fender bass. Bam.
Sounded like new money. But anyway, Don Littlefield was the

business major and he made the band like kind of
like his his um you know. Well anyway, he's he
was a businessman. And our big move, big move came
when he went and played went and attended of Smith

College mixer, which gathered all of the men's colleges on
the northeast, and sin of you know flyers out to
them saying they've got this big mixer, come on up,
blah blah blah. So all these guys came up and
he went and passed out our business guard. You know,

rock and roll goes the Electra's rock and roll goes
to college with the secret ingredient, and I was the
secret ingredient. And uh and we had like three three
incredible years of playing music and traveling around New England.
Got out as far as spenn State. You know some

things in New Jersey, you know, Connecticut, you know, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine,
and upstate New York. As I say, know a little
bit of New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. So yeah, a
little Field got all the gigs. Manily, we did well.

He did really good, did very well. So whatever happened
to Little Field, Uh he became a minister. I was
just talking to him not too long ago. He didn't
he didn't follow Almost almost none of those guys followed
music because they were they played music aside for what
you do. Marcel Crudel was a forestry and landscape landscaping guy.

Um Ray Susan was an English teacher. Um Um Jack
Moran he was. He ended up being a PD a pediatrician.
Um see. Another guy was um Chucky Reid. He played

saxophone with us. He was a uh pizzed major. The
guys eve he was a poet. Nobody knew where he went,
you know, and went like that. Okay, so you graduated
from college then what by then? I was playing music

and and um, you know I'm not only not only
was I dealing with with the music that we were
playing in college, but you know, I, you know, I
just as I said, decided that whenever I was doing
music would be on the side or in the front. However,

I was going to continue to play music because there's
things that wanted to learn. And I didn't care whether
it was I was popular at him or not, or
it could make a living at it or not, you know,
whichever whichever worked. And so yeah, I got I was
working a lot up in in um In and around Boston,

and uh, I got myself at the age it you know,
Manny green Hill and Full Core Productions, and he got
lots of gigs for me, you know. And UH hooked
up with this guy Jessie leeken Kaide and came out
to California because he was playing some music from Roy Couter.
Yeah it's just sounded too much like blind Board Fuller,

It's right. And I found out he was like seventeen
years old. Who is this kid? All right? Well, we
need to go again, we get him out here, I
guess we have to go to California and that's what
we did. So when you were playing after college? Was
it a solo actor? Do you have beans? What was it? No?
Pretty much a due me and this other guy Jessie Lincoln.

The tourists played guitar, somethime. I played harmonica t r
sometimes dim So what year do you move to l A?
And how do you end up finding and how do
you end up finding Roy couter guys? As I said,
the guy that that I uh um hung out with
up in Cambridge, know him Capron California, know him and

could play some stuff that he learned from saying, if
somebody could teach you that. I'm listening to all these
other guys around here, and they know sounding like that,
that sounds like the music. So you moved to l A.
Where are you living? Do you immediately start playing out?
I mean you need money to live? What's going on?
I had seen I had a paper route that had

six hundred, six hundred papers every morning, and like I said,
I had a garden dog wife, you know, a couple
of guitars and banjo, you know, and uh some harmonicas
you know, just about make the rent, you know, and uh,

I'm really happy, you know, dizzy and listen to a
lot of music, went through a lot of music. Used
to work at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles. You
know it's the bouncer, doorman, cedar greeter sometimes the open
enact when somebody didn't show up. How many steps were

there before the Rising Sun's steps? How many other bands
were there? Or you were played? That was it from
the other band? I mean Jesse, Jesse and Jessie and
we we What happened was that Ryan was connected with
a place called McCabe's guitar store, and McCabe's there was

a something called the Teenage Fair that was happening here
in Los Angeles, and the big players were we're studying
and share and that's what was the big thing going
on then. And maybe Red Bone Pat and Lolly Vegas
you know him, and no different other people around town.

And we got to be a part of the Martin
Guitar Companies booth that Martin it took a little shot
at trying to make electric guitars and uh so Jesse
Lee played drugs. Gary Marker who we met played bass

where I played slide guitar. I played guitar with harmonica
on Iraq and we just played and played the grooves
we knew and that was that was one in the
net and the next thing. Uh yeah, we started pulling
different people in just to try to create this group.

First drummer was Ed Cassidy, who went on to play
with Spirit and man also was the oldest living rock
drummer for some time. And yeah, you know, and then
we started recording. How did you get your deal with Columbia?

They came out to see us artist, Uh, you know,
I thought we had potential or maybe we're we were
too much competition for certain bands out there, and they
put us on the label and just you know, we
you know, I mean the first album never came out,

you know, so you never know what that's what they did.
I noticed what they did with the Beatles, you know,
side of every possible group that would give them any
competition and then shove them and then put those guys
out there, you know. So I don't know, I never
I don't sit around and worry about conspiracy theories. Is
that we you know, we we found ourselves in the

studio making music, you know, but we also found on
a not of you know, music business politics, craziness that
didn't have nothing to do with music. So how disappointing
and disillusioning was it to get a deal, make a
record and have the record never come out? Um? Hey,

uh it was. It was disappointing, but that was just
that was just part for the chorus. My friend, they
have things that were certainly certainly a lot worse. I mean,
it wasn't that that wasn't like that all we rolled
off our backs, but you know, we had you had
you had to make it, you had to go forward. Yeah,

And so how did you end up as a solo
artist on Columbia? Call up the correct president of the
record company and told him I was on his label,
and I was signed with a group, and I was
signed as an individual, and I had some ideas. Called
up climb dave Is. Talked to his secretary, told her
what I told her my story. She said, well, all right,

she says, Mr Davis isn't here now, but I'll give
him your message maybe through. Two or three hours later
he called me back. I spoke to him, told him
what I was, what I was up to him. What
I wanted to do, you know. Um, and you know,
maybe I made a mistakes saying I wanted to produce
my own music, you know, and you know, but that

was the point he said that. Kylie said that, well,
that wasn't their policy. You know, after after the Silence
of the Universe, came back with a you know, it
wasn't their policy. But if if, if it'll be okay,
send out they was, you know, put the money to
send out some producers. And first one they sent out,

we hit it off. And that was David Rubens heard
from him today. David, Oh, yeah, hear from out a
regular basis. Yeah, good guy. Yeah, and and and we
got involved in first he had to figure out what
was happening and how much he had to be involved
in putting the music together. And then he began to
realize that, no, this guy knows what he wants to do,

and he left me alone. He did the business. I mean,
you know, everybody talks about uh jay Z and uh
Damon dash Us being one guy did the business and
one guy did the music, and that's the modern version
of it. But David Rubister did it back in those days.
You know, he pushed pushed the nay of his artist

students to the company because he knew what was going on. Yeah,
so the album comes out, what's it like on your
side of the fence. I only know the consumer side
of the fence. Well, I'm glad that, I'm glad. I'm glad. Well.
First of all, um, I was looking for a really

good guitar player, you know, somebody who I could translate
these old songs too, and really was coming down it
with a fresh approach. And that guy turned out to
be Jesse Davis, native American brother commitson incredible guitar, used
to play with Zappa, yeah, amongst amongst others. And uh

he heard him and said, okay one and I wouldn't
play play with Roy Coonter knew he could play too,
So now I need a drummer and a bass player. Um.
And I heard a guy named James Broadway Thomas, and

you know, and then a guy named Sandy Conical who's
playing with a band called General Soul. Um, James James Thomas,
Jimmie Thomas's played with like Big Mama Thornton, Uh with
Albert King. Um. Oh, the guys they can't sit down.

Um anyway, Uh, yeah, he played with some really cool guys,
and uh so I thought that, you know, he he'd
be a good bass player, and he and he was,
and and that's all I had. And they had some
They gave me some days to come and play, and
I came into the studio and brought the material that

I had in my head. Nobody had ever heard anything, right,
was probably the only one that heard heard any of
the original material from the original artists. But what we
did that day was something different, you know. And so
I just would dictate parts the way I wanted the
drummer to play and the way I wanted the bass
player to play. Never said anything to Ride, never said

anything to Davis, because I knew they could play and
set it up and that squaw you here on that
leaving trumble when that harmonica comes in. There is nobody
else who plays it like that. You can listen every
harmonica player you know. And it all came from something
that Lewis Myers taught me. He said, he said, he said,

you're real good, he said, but you're playing too many notes.
He said, listen to this. He said, I'm gonna play
to you one more time, one time, and I'm not
gonna play it again, and he plays something in my
ear that it's a signature in my monica playing to
this day playing octaves. How long did it take to
make this record? A few days? So the record comes out?

You sold your own case, just Clive Davis? Uh, what happened?
They put you on the road to support it? And
what was you know? Yeah, I mean a little bit.
It came dribbling in. We weren't We weren't. Really, I wasn't.
You know, it's Ahl playing blues for guys who had
been in the record business. You know, you know I didn't.

I wasn't playing whatever the new hip black music was.
Not that I couldn't, not that I didn't listen to it,
and I thought that I didn't support those artists. You know.
Um but um, you know, um, we kind of got
got in where we we got in where they finished in.

You know, we did some stuff. You know, we're in
the you know, the the raggedy pan, the raggedy panel
truck tours. You know, looking at the street, going underneath
the cars you're driving down the road. You know, we
did all that. You know, a little by a little
by little got better, got better, got better. Probably got
the second record down. It was that great. Let's talk

about the second record. The second record they let you
do alone and there's a lot more original material on
the second record. Yeah, that was the idea. And so
had you always been writing? Um yeah, attempting to anyway?

So on the second album, she caught the Katie, which
of course was in the Blues Brothers movie. So can
you tell us about writing that song and about getting
it in the movie? Um, yes, addressing everybody likes that
because because all of that, I like she Contuccatie too.

But I'm absolutely really there. I'm I'm using pretty even
about everything. I love all of all the tunes of
that record. You know, but you know, as an artist,
you always that's something you like, it, something you don't like,
not doubt like, but you could wish you could do it.
Go back in there and do those two notes better anyway?

Um yo, Oh she caught to Katie. That's really interesting.
See she show on me something. Um, you know, like
you said as a consumer, Um yeah, I mean the
tune itself. I'd heard it from a guy named Steve Man,

and he didn't know where he got it from. So
I had sleepy John Sts and Yank Rachel out to
my house and they were there for maybe a month
month and a half while they were working, you know,
got working working out here on the West Coast. And
I was talking to Yank one day and he was

and we were just still this men talking and uh say, yeah, man,
my second wife you know, no, no, my first wife
blah blah blah blah. Yeah, she called to k and
left me a mule to ride. I said, I said,
I said where. He said why? You know, he said,

I've been saying that something that since I was a
little youngster. So I realized that there was a lot
of tunes out there that didn't have any yo direct
uh composer. You know, like if if Big Joe nine
string Big Joe had had done the thing, he wouldn't

put out baby, Baby, Please Don't Go. You know, that
was his tool. But you know, he didn't copyright it,
so a lot of people got to play it, and
they got to go into public domain anyway, So this
song was in public domain, and uh, you know, it
was up for grabs. So I put a lot of

different lyrics on it. And and remember the lyrics that
he anked it, so you know, I went into partnership
on the composer, the composer of that song when he
ain't Grachel and he was able to say both his

daughter to nursing school and nursing college and his granddaughter
to college on that on the strength of that record alone.
And as far as getting it in the Blues Brothers movie,
Tackery and Beluci called me up and I said, hey,
we want to do your your your your tune in

the movie, he said, and we want to make sure
we ask it. Would that be all right? Said? Hey,
go for it? Okay. At this point, do you still
own your own publishing? You still do it? And do
you ever receive any record royalties? Are you still in
the red with these record companies? Never? Well, I don't

know what I'm in. I just know that over the
years I've I've received royalties, But the record I know
that that the the the way it works nowadays, it
probably isn't as good as it used to be. Okay,
So now you go act to working with David Rubenson.
How did you decide to do that? No, I didn't

go I was always working with him. I worked with
him for the basically mm hmm, pretty much up until
for about the first five records, you know, tis the
Home Natural Blues, Giant Step, um the real thing, and

Happy just to be like I am? And then Sounder,
Who's so Gooden Bluze? Uh excuse uh, Sounder Recycling the Blues?
Whoso Gooden Blues? I started, I started producing all those
on my own, and then from there on I produced
everything up until um well about Yeah, okay, so you

put out a double album Take a Giant Step. Now,
the Monkeys were huge and even though they didn't write
the song was a Golfing Kings song. Were you aware
of that version? How did you decide to cut Take
a Giant Step? Terry Melcher, who was Marty Melcher and
Doris day Son was given a job of being a

producer at staff producer at Columbia Records when the Rising
Suns were put on the Columbia label. First It's they
brought out Alan Step to try to record us, and
he couldn't make any sense of it, and then they
brought Terry Melcher, and Melcher brought Giant Step. Yeah you

know with the monkeys, I mean, right and okay, and
so we tried to cut maybe a little bit more
stronger rock with a little bit of R and B
energy in it, and you know, um and cut it

with the rising suns. But one time, when I'm saying,
while I was singing, I sartously, you know what, this
song would sound really great if it was song slower,
you know, and I get the mind of a jazz musician,
you know, and I didn't realize that's what it was.
You know, they'll take a song and turn it into

a ballad, you know, rearrange it, you know, free to
do that this music. So yeah, I just change it up,
put it in the temple that I put it in.
It sounded great. Yeah. So was there any blowback about
wanting to do a double album from the company if
there was. If there was, I'm sure that David Rubinson

covered it and it never got back to me. Okay,
how do you end up making the famous live album
with the multi tubas with Howard Johnson. It's got all
those tubas and it's also cut lot. Why Why does
everybody freak out when when somebody's when somebody comes to
creative and constantly is creating, is as if they think

that they know that they can't be this much. You
gotta stop at some point you know, Oh, don't are
you kidding me? Oh, here's another one. I never heard this.
I don't get I don't get it. You know this
this is this is America, the land or free. This
is opportunity. So I'm taking opportunity to Opportunity comes knocking
and I'm I show up. It shows up, and everybody

goes like, oh my god, how did that happen? You
got you gotta imagine it from my point of view, Okay,
because you've got more, you got more, You got more
folks on your side of the pends. Who are who are?
Just there goes that confounded tig wall again, Wells, was

there any pressure for sale? And did you feel an obligation?
We're just following your muse or where you worrying? And
I was, no, I wasn't a mine if I wash it?
Worried about commerciality if those guys here play some of
that garbage that they put out there, what you you
know you understand me. It's just here's the clear here's

the clear, clear clearing presiety. Those guys could think that
that garbage that they were putting out there, and I'm
not calling the names, you know, is at that and
that what I was doing with garbage, and it couldn't
go out there and have the same movement. You know,
I don't know what was going on inside the business,
where people blocking it or people keeping it down, because

now everybody acts it's like, oh my god, you can't
imagine what it was like to me. You know, you
were my savior, you saved, you saved my parents marriage,
Gariet step. I mean, on and on and on and
on and on, and I go like, okay, and here
I was scuffling and scrambling and spending time away from
my family, trying to make a living, you know, and

I'm listening to this garbage that they're they're putting all
the money behind it. Weren't putting the money behind me,
and like they would put them behind the other guys.
I just said, you know what, hey, if that's what
it is, that's too bad. That is not a reason
for you to stop playing good music. You know, why
what am I gonna do compromise myself? You know, it's

like and you know, and be a whole for bad music.
I don't think so. You know, so whatever whatever they said,
they never got it never got to me. I mean,
little things like, well, I think that you know, you don't,
you're not really a black artist. I was like, oh really, okay,
well tell that to the Africans that all come and

have my records, or the Jamaicans or the trunt Adians
or the Brazilian You tell me about that, you know,
And of course they have no, They have never had
an answer. You know. What it is is that you
know the A lot of it is is that I
show you show people flat out that it's about independent thought,

and that's not what they were looking. They wanted people
who would go along to get along. I've never been
that guy. I'm not. It's not gonna happen. My kids
don't do it either. Okay, let's go sideways a little bit.
I was talking to Bonnie Read and the third album

Taking My Time she was making with Lowell George, and
Lowell wanted to play all the slide parts. He said
no way, got rid of him and said, she called
you and brought you into help making the record. Does
that you remember that experience experienced that John Hall called

me up okay and asked me to help out, And yeah,
he ultimately got certain credit, but she really played up
that you were used a big part of that occurred. Yeah,
I was, And what is the special sauce that you bring?
I don't know. I never stood still around looking at

myself in the room full of mirrors. Okay, So how
do you end up switching from Columbia Warner Brothers? Yeah,
I kind of got I kinda got dry, tired of
what felt like they were card They weren't. They weren't
really putting their their energy into me, and wanted to
take another shot, try somebody else out. And pretty much
it was about to say the only thing I knew

is that of that Sony or b M I. Yeah,
what was it? April Black? With b M I, Sony?
They all, you know, Chase Dolond made sure that if
anything happened over there that they were in line for
the publishing. You know, they're administrating part of the publishing.
That's all they had. I had a dent of the

writers and seventy five of the the publishing, and they
took two administration. And how was the experience at Warners
as opposed to Columbia was? Okay? So when it ends
with Warners you lose your second major label deal. Did

you say, no problem, I'll find my own way or
were you disheartened? Yeah, that's it, man, I'm I'm a
grown man. I'm if I look at these guys that
you're a rapper, you're lucky if you get three records.
You know, is that? You know I said, you know,
I started making my own deals, you know, Colombia, Warner Brothers.

The first deal that came along was was that I'm
and direct right, you know. Next deal was the Usual Suspects,
this guy named Tom. We did two or three albums,
some tunes on that. You know, eighties come up, that's
the eighties. Eighties come along. I always wanted to do

some children's music, did children's music, you know, put ups
of music out there, did music with the Bob Marley's
mother Smiling Island a song, you know, different things deep
in the big wide world. You know, the e walks
for Star Wars. You know, um, you know, just you know,

get busy, do stuff, you know, and Morning Brothers. I
did a sound the second soundtrack. You know, I mean,
it's like here you are talking to me. You didn't
mention anything about the fact that I was. I did
the first and at that time only acoustic soundtrack, Acoustic

Country blues soundtrack to a major motion picture in the
motion pictures sounder. I fully aware I was gonna get there,
and I saw the movie when it's on its first release.
So how did that come about? Um, someone who was

doing the movie suggested that I'd be the guy to
do it. They came around, Uh, I was, I was, Yeah,
the came that's not think. At that point in time,
I was being managed by Bill Graham Productions or Bill
Graham Management Field Moore Management. And they came to the
office and I was playing, and I flew down to

the set in uh, Louisiana, Clinton, Louisiana, down outside of
that rouge and what was it outside of Zachary, Louisiana
So with the mis fifty miles old Mississippi border and yeah,
they they asked me the you know. Uh. Martin Ritt

was the director and he had listened to the album
and he said he didn't think that I was the
right guy. And I told him, I said, I told him,
I said, did you did you have him listen to
the second album? And he said, well, no, but he

didn't think he were gonna be there. I said, listen
the second album to have him listened to the second album.
So when you listened to the second album, that's when
he heard all the acoustic music, and I thought that
that would be a better fit. You know. I knew
it was going to be a better fit. But they
had grabbed an album on their own, and they didn't

think the first two were what they were looking for.
And then the third one was even slicker, you know,
And then that's what I knew, that was, here's a
whole bunch of older tunes that you need to show
up on this second album. And so to so many people,
that is a bible of you know, what music is about,

how to powlish it up. You know, it just sounds
good as a you know, as music porch music from
porch back, porch music, you know. But um yeah, um
they Martin Rip liked it. And then then he asked
me because I do some dialogue for him, and that's

when they put me in the in the movie is playing,
uh the family friend Ike Phillips, and I actually I
actually got to you know, it was real nice. I
actually got to have you know, one uh guitar like
Rosetta Thorpe, one of those you know dually in National
Sunbverse tobacco with sunbverse and and play that in the movie.

And I will be there for as long as you
can show that movie, you know. I mean it's that's
like I pulled off, pull up, pull up a whole
bunch of stuff. I want to walk up and one
of the ending scenes, I'm whistling Carena when I walk up.
You know, people paying attention. You know. I had a
wonderful time with the people down there and the music,

and I made some lifelong friends, the William Anderson family. Yeah,
uh Ted Lee and them and uh yeah, okay, So
then you end up working in front of the camera.
How do you get all these other booby roles? Um No,

I didn't do too much. I just did, you know
a little bit. I did two pieces that were around sounder,
and uh, you know, I got a few things here
and there. I want, you know, I want to there
have been some really good stuff to play, you know,
I don't want to do to be a job motherfucker
up here and they're playing then see it. You know
that's because that's what was going on. Then Yeah, man,

I ain't to say if I ain't, you know, I'm
not doing that. Yeah, come on, you know you mentioned
Bill Graham, how important is a manager and will you managed? Well, um,
that's a story that should appear somewhere else. I'll leave

it at that, you know, I think that I'll put
it this way. I died involved with him because I saw, oh,
well he could do what he did. You know, we
had some really differences, oh our modus operandi and yo
personal service situation. At some point game till came to

the fork in the road. Unfortunately we were able to
to uh, he was able to two h figure that
you know, I was, I was a man standing and
he had to acknowledge that did about other people who

were managing you good, bad or otherwise. You know. Yeah, well, well,
see often times that people coming you can tell where
people are at by how when when when it gets
down to the crunch, you know, they they they're they're
just the garden variety manager. You know, they don't see

they don't see nobody's Most people are not going to
see me because of the fact that they think that
they know they know you know my people and how
we react. Sometimes they might be absolutely correct. They know
those people and how those people of my people react.
They don't know me. You want to know me, talk

to me. You want to know me. Respect me. I
respect you. I started out but that, but you know,
you play me cheap and play me payment, play me
like I'm some kind of ghetto orf and you're in
trouble son? Is that it ain't that kind of party?
You know? And today? Do you have a manager today

or do you do it yourself? Do you have an
agent of books gigs? Yeah? I got what agent that
books age and I worked with a with a management
crew that I really like that I respect, you know,
And that's it. You know, you even even if quietly
you don't know as soon as you turn to your
head sideways said, I don't know, you're in trouble. You

know how to respect people. People have to respect you.
Any goals that have going unfulfilled that you're still trying
to achieve, Yeah, making money like Michael Jackson, okay, hopefully
not spending it like Michael Jackson. But I said what
I said, you know, Okay, So how has money been

throughout your sixty year career? Uh? Scarce but good enough.
Good enough to put my kids to college, you know,
and you know, and take care of myself and take
here the people that I'm responsible for into you know,
if that's what it is cool, you know, I'm living

a good life. You know, what are your kids up to? Um? Everything?
You know, everything from landscape and you know, landscape, permaculture,
other musicians, you know, computer computer, computer science people, um,
you know, um yeah, everything you know your name it.

You know. You know there's you know someone with musicians
you know and involved in climate. You know. One of
my daughters is a is a UM published writer, you know,
and you know, all of them going along in their
own space, doing their own thing, you know, and independent,

so they're they're not on the payroll. Oh no, oh no,
I mean when they were going to college. I mean maybe,
like maybe my youngest one, he's he's just just just
coming off, but he's still in he's still in school.
You know, he's doing really good. He's gonna be I
think springtime, that's gonna be the end of that. You know.

He's the one he I mean, he's he's paying for
a school and something he wanted to do. So I'm
helping him out with other things, you know, and that works.
You know. I got a couple of just a couple
of them that I'm dealing with probably dealing with some
money too. But you know when whenever it comes up,
somebody's got a good idea, he says, Hey, they want

to put this together. They needs they needs some backing,
you know, sure, Steward, Okay, this is audio only, but
I can see you. You have a fish or a
dolphin around your neck. What's that about? That is a
um marlin and it signifies almost seven hundred pound marlin.

And I caught off of um Hannibal Bank in Panama
and tagged it, revived it and let it go. And
is there any weird place you haven't been that you
want to go? Yeah? Sure, there's all kinds of places
that come on man. I mean it's like you know,

um yeah, it's like fifty four countries in Africa and
I've only been a fourteen of them, you know, um
plenty Caribbean islands I haven't been to, you know, been
down there and been on some of them. You know.

It's good, it's great, you know. And at this point
in time, how many gigs do you do in a year? Uh? Well,
it's just start enough since COVID, Uh, I don't know
this year, I don't know how many we're we're probably well,
I don't know, I have no idea yet, you know,
just the last, the last of what we're doing for

a year. That list seventeen more gigs and we're talking
just before Thanksgiving. So going forward, do you want to
work more? You want to work less? Anything? Specifically, you
want to do work different? You know, means producing records,

producing other people, seeing other folks get a platform, come
up with you know, come out with some other I've
got a lot of got a lot of ye know.
It's like my output to two is much much bigger
than what what the what their old record business used
to be able to handle. So going forward, I think
we can, we can put out more records, you know,

but in a different kind of way, you know. I
mean it's like now one one song equals the group
you know where, which was like fifties. You know, it's
Dion and the Belmonts. Oh my god, you know, it's
Bill Dogging and Honkey Talk. Oh my god, it's James

Brown and you know, try me, Smokey Robinson, you know,
shop around, you know, and you didn't know anything else
they did. Just do that. You like that record and
you're like that band and we're back at the same door,
you know. So, but I have a lot of music,
you know, uh, other things I'd like to do. I

love it, you know, do more uh scoring of records.
Let me see the scoring with movies, you know, and
uh you know. But also most of all, see the
musicians that young, my my, my family. You'll get recognized
who what it is they do is several you know,

hip hop, rap, R and B, you know, far out jazz,
you know, all kinds of music. Well, Taj, I want
to thank you so much for taking the time to
talk to me and my audience. I've been very illuminating. Hey,
thank you. You know. I was saying, you know, you
this stuff you're talking about, your growing up in your perspective,

that people need to hear that stuff. Yeah. Well, hey,
if you want it, you gotta go after it, you know.
And you can't let people. You can't let people deter you. Nope,
not deterred. Sorry, Well I know it's okay. You can
go right ahead, you know, and I will read about

you with you all your success when you drive your
miles aroundie off Cliff because you can't stand not paid
attention to you know, and keep on keep on percolating,
doing right, doing good with people. But now some of that,
no matter what, come back around and say, my god,
just saying feels even better forty years later. I mean,

I've got people telling me, man, I know you see
fifty seven years ago, you know, just like this regularly ride. Well,
fifty seven years we hadn't played together. Listen. I was
talking about the psychiatrist earlier, and he says, oh, I
saw taj Mahal when I was you know, and he
said it was a high school. He sent me the thing.

It was from Snick that was a benefit for stick
and it was you and John Himmon and Tom Rush.
People remember you, that's for sure. Yeah, right, even if
they even even if they haven't come back for fifty years,
if it was and then, and that was always something
I have to say, that's something that always was able

to sustain me. So I just realized that whatever it
is and whatever what I'm supposed to get going here,
is that I don't lose sight of the music. And
I never did. I never have until next time. This
is Bob Left sets h
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