Being Humble…The Eric Clapton Model To Longevity

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Ask yourself…why does Eric Clapton get so much respect? It’s because he’s humble. He doesn’t act like he’s the greatest, and he doesn’t try to show off. After seeing Eric in concert in 2009, I can tell you first hand that he’s cooler than a cucumber at a show! The house lights went down, and his band walked onstage. No big intro. No light shows. No lasers. Just the band. Then, Eric walks onto the stage. He makes sure his guitar’s ready to go, and he just starts playing. He doesn’t have any circus stuff in his show. He doesn’t need a recording of horns playing while somebody says “IT’S ERIC CLAPTON!”…or something like that. Ask any guitar player why Eric’s so respected among guitarists. They SHOULD tell you it’s because he knows when NOT to play! Everything he plays is something you can relate to. It means something. He doesn’t do behind the head tricks, or play with his teeth. He just plays. And although he’s not known for singing, he does a fine job at that! He doesn’t try to be a crooner. He just sings the song. How does he stay so humble? He doesn’t let his ego get to him. He does his own laundry. He goes shopping by himself. Unfortunately, the reason everyone knows this is because TMZ follows him around when he’s doing these things. Hard to get out of the celebrity world, when you’re constantly being reminded that you’re Eric Clapton. But, he’s able to keep his cool, and maintain that humble personality, that’s made him one of the most respected artists in the world!

 

Here’s a video that TMZ captured of Eric doing laundry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuBQIvcFrAY

 

Here’s a video of a couple of guys harassing Eric for autographs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9jLe8LEz6Q

 

Here’s a video of Eric Clapton beginning a show in 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkjBOSGVLsY

Erasing History

Rickey Medlocke, one of the founding members of Blackfoot, re-formed the band a couple of years ago, but he did so using four young guys who had never had anything to do with Blackfoot before. Rickey’s not in the band. Also, he sent legal notices to Charlie Hargrett, original Blackfoot guitarist, and Greg T. Walker, original Blackfoot bassist, telling them to “cease and desist” from using the name Blackfoot. Rickey, Charlie, and Greg are the only 3 original members still living. Rickey’s making more money with Lynyrd Skynyrd, so he’s chosen not to tour with Blackfoot, so in essence, what right does he have to tell Charlie and Greg that they can’t use the name? Granted, Rickey did the biggest majority of the writing, and he kept the band going through the 80’s and 90’s, but once he threw Blackfoot aside, just for a bigger paycheck with Skynyrd, to me, he forfeits his say in the matter. Years ago, all four original members signed an agreement, saying they wouldn’t use the name Blackfoot, unless all four original members were there. When fans demanded a reunion in 2004, Greg, Charlie, and Jackson Spires (original drummer) contacted Rickey to see if he would be interested. Rickey passed on the offer, so Greg, Charlie, and Jackson called former member Bobby Barth to take Rickey’s place. That lineup was intact, until Jackson’s passing in 2005. Christoph Ullman, Mark McConnell, Michael Sollars, and Scott Craig were to follow on the drums, after Jackson. Aside from Bobby Barth’s emergency neck and shoulder operation in 2006, when Jay Johnson stepped in, the core lineup of Bobby, Greg, and Charlie remained. In 2010, Bobby Barth was sidelined for neck surgery. The band’s website claimed it was back surgery, but during an interview I conducted with Bobby in November of 2010, he told me it was really neck surgery. Due to the extensive touring Blackfoot does, Bobby made the decision to leave the band, to hopefully help his neck heal. Mike Estes, former member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, was asked to step in. In 2011, Randy Peak replaced Charlie Hargrett, following Charlie’s “cease and desist”. Greg T. Walker was the last one to get the “cease and desist” from Medlocke, forcing the entire lineup to stop in 2012. Then, Rickey took over with an all new lineup, featuring no original or previous members. After watching live videos of the current “Blackfoot”, I noticed that these young guys are saying things like “We are Blackfoot.” and “This is from our Strikes album.” The album, Strikes, came out in 1979, mind you. The frontmen, of which there have been many since Medlocke put them on the road, even copies stage antics and rambling in-between songs, just like Rickey did in the 80’s. Essentially, Rickey Medlocke, in my eyes, is erasing the entire history of Blackfoot. 

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS announced plans to make a similar move, a few years ago. 

The question I have to ask is: At what point will the fans speak up and say that enough is enough? At what point will the fans refuse to buy the records or go to the shows? We may never know. Sadly, until we, as fans and investors into these artists, wise-up, we’ll keep getting things handed to us that we don’t want, but eventually get convinced that we NEED. Rickey would like us to think we NEED a new Blackfoot. Gene and Paul would like us to think we NEED a new KISS, when they retire from the road. In reality, what we NEED is for the original members to bury all the hatchets they may have, and get back together at least one last time FOR THE FANS! 7116_1228778878194_7085249_n

Here’s the Blackfoot lineup that I saw, with Bobby Barth and Scott Craig joining Charlie and Greg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_r8VsiNe2U

Here’s the new “Blackfoot” that Rickey put together with young hired guns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHI3NbCB7Yo

Guitar Clinics: Egotistical?

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about guitar clinics, claiming they’re egotistical. Well, sometimes they are, quite honestly. But, when guitar clinics are done correctly, they’re not egotistical at all. I went to a Tommy Emmanuel clinic in Little Rock, that was presented by Little Rock Frets, at the beginning of this month. 50 people were allowed in. Some guitar players just play as fast as they can, then very arrogantly say “Did everyone get that?” Tommy didn’t do that. Tommy did things the right way. He would slow it down, and make sure everyone could see what he was doing. He didn’t play. He demonstrated. And THAT’S the difference! Some guitarists use clinics as a performance, so they play a bunch of hot licks that they play in concerts, and charge 3 times the price for it! Always be careful when going to clinics. Do your research. Make sure the player actually does a clinic, rather than a cocky concert. I highly recommend Tommy Emmanuel clinics! He took questions from the crowd, and even took some requests. But, when he took requests, he would play the song, then demonstrate how he was doing everything. He would show every technique. Close to the end of the clinic, he told us that with all the resources now-a-days like YouTube and guitar tab websites, if you can’t figure it out, you’re a dummy, and in a lot of ways, he was right. There are so many ways of learning, right at your fingertips, that you really have no excuse. However, to get the answers to difficult questions, or just to get up close for hands on learning, a properly handled clinic will give you a lifetime of knowledge. Therefore, not all guitar clinics are egotistical.

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Here’s a video of Tommy performing Classical Gas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S33tWZqXhnk

Here’s a video from a Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Clinic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB6y3i855eI

Missing Band Members

218060_1055258540294_7065_nI’ve noticed lately that some of my favorite bands have key members missing. What’s even worse is that they haven’t really explained why. First is Unknown Hinson. Shortly before his wife/manager passed away last year, he retired from touring. At the time he had Hugh “Tuff” Blanton on Bass, and Rick Kutshaw on the drums. Shortly before the final shows, he had Jimmy Church playing pedal steel in the band. The retirement announcement mentioned that they had been in the red, financially, so I assume this is partly why Jimmy was out of the band, towards the end. A few months ago, Stuart Baker, the man behind Unknown Hinson, announced that he would be returning to the road this fall, but gave no mention to who his band would be. He has had a few different lineups over the years, so everyone was wondering who he’d take with him. I assumed he’d bring back Jimmy, Tuff, and Rick. But, shortly before the tour started, he announced the return of the original Unknown Hinson Showdate Band, which includes Roger “Tiny” Khors on bass, and Billy Boy on the drums. This caught me off guard for a moment, since he had toured with a completely different band the year before, and especially since Billy Boy had been out of the band for so long. Roger has been in the band off and on, since it started. Actually, the 2011 tour was the first tour he’d ever been out of the band, however, towards the end of that tour, Unknown fired the bass player he had hired, right before Tuff, so until he found Tuff, he brought Roger back to finish out the obligated dates. But, after I thought about it, it made perfect sense to bring the original band back.

 

On the other hand, .38 Special has chosen to operate slightly more secretly. For a little over a year now, Donnie Van Zant, one of the founding members, has been absent from live performances with the band, and nobody knew why. Then, one day earlier this year, an announcement was made from .38 Special saying that Donnie was suffering from an inner-ear problem, and his doctor had advised him against touring, so he would no longer be with the band, except for albums and other studio projects. Afterwards, as they probably should’ve done to begin with, they updated their press photos, to show the current lineup, without Donnie. When, drummer, Gary Moffatt was sidelined from touring, there was an announcement made that it was for health reasons. But, that being said, they took longer with Donnie’s announcement than with Gary’s. Almost as if they weren’t sure whether or not Donnie would for sure be off the road. So, that begs the question: Will Donnie be back relatively soon? Time will tell. On the other hand, just in the last month or so, all of us .38 Special fans have noticed that everyone’s favorite bass player, Larry “L.J.” Junstrom has been absent from the band’s live performances, as well. They’ve already replaced him with a guy named Barry Dunaway. He does a good job, but we all still miss L.J., mostly because we have no clue what happened to him. Is he ill? Was he fired? Will he be back? It seemed like they had a replacement awful quick, so it must be temporary, or it was something medical that they saw coming. Don’t take my word for it, because I know just about as much as you. Hopefully the band will release more information very soon. All band photos and biography’s still show Larry as a member of the band. Hopefully the .38 Special mystery will be solved very soon. The best we can hope for is for Donnie to make a full recovery soon, Gary to maintain good health, and L.J. to get back onstage (whatever the reason for his absence is…don’t know), and all of them to be back together again, making records and playing concerts! That band is too good to lose!

 

Keep an eye on the .38 Special webpage for more: http://www.38special.com 

Also, look for Unknown Hinson and his original band, coming to a town near you: http://www.unknownhinson.com 

 

Making A Record…Easy as 1, 2, 3

Although the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s showed a large number of artists looking for a record deal, the value of the record companies has largely decreased, in recent years. Anybody can make a record at home now. If I wanted to, I could hook up my board, microphones, and recording device, make an album, and have it available, by the end of the day. It used to take thousands, or even millions or dollars to create and promote an album. Now, you can do it for a few hundred dollars. The initial fees involved with home recording are for a decent mix board, a couple of good microphones, and some sort of recording device or software. You can get a good mix board for anywhere from $40-$2000, depending on what you need. A good vocal mic will cost around $100, at the least. For the most basic setup, a couple of dynamic mics will run you $60 or $70, and although they’re not as good, they’ll save you money, and if you know what you’re doing, you can get a pretty decent sound from them. I’ve used multitrack recording software, small audio recorders, and top of the line recording units. The technology’s there. It’s all good. You don’t have to have the top of the line recording unit anymore. Some of the best recording devices I’ve seen are handheld recorders, from brands like Sony and Zoom. There are great recording software programs that you can get online, LEGALLY, for free! Audacity’s probably the most popular, although it has problems occasionally with freezing up, or not properly saving tracks, leaving you with the task of doing it all over again. N-Track Studio was the best software I’ve ever used for recording music. There are programs that are superior in some ways like Garage Band and Pro-Tools, but are altogether unnecessary, if you learn how to get good with free programs, which isn’t hard. Good equipment will sound good any day of the week, as long as you don’t completely ruin the mix. Once you get good levels set, leave them there, mark the board, take a picture. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES! Your recording future depends on making it sound as good as possible. Too much experimenting will cause a terrible product! I recommend using a good handheld recorder or recording console, rather than software, because you don’t need to rely on a computer to save everything perfectly. You can always upload your songs to your computer, and either give them a final mix, or edit them, if you wish. Non-computer recording also encourages getting it right, rather than realizing that you have the crutch of re-doing something, if you get it wrong. After the recording’s done, you need to put it on some type of medium. If you choose to put it on iTunes, that’s good, but always have a physical product available. Most of your sales, when you’re first starting out, are going to be from people that are wanting to support you, and more than likely just saw you perform, and they want to take the songs home with them. If your music is only available online, these spur of the moment sales, that you will rely on for awhile, are impossible. If you’re lucky, they’ll remember to buy it on iTunes when they get home, but this is rare. How do you make it look good? Easy. There’s a program called LightScribe, which allows you to create album art, and through laser technology, it can etch it onto the disk, through a CD burner. These CD drives will specify whether or not they have that function. You can do this at home, for no charge, aside from the special burner, and the LightScribe disks. A disc of Nero software, including LightScribe, should be included with your disk drive. If you don’t mind waiting a few weeks, you can have a company make you professional CD’s in jewel cases, or cardboard jackets. DiscMakers is one of the best! After that’s done, you have your own homemade album. Now, how do you promote it? Years ago, the answer was flyers, radio play, and concerts. Due to the corporatizing of radio, airplay is near impossible for independent artists. Flyers rarely help, unless you’re handing them directly to someone, or placing them on windshields. Concerts, as mentioned before, are still a great way to promote your product! But, your best bet in the modern world, is to use sites like Youtube, Facebook, and Reverbnation. If you know what you’re doing, and you have the right amount of luck, you can do okay, without record labels.

 

This video is from a series of ExpertVillage videos, in which you learn about setting up a home studio:

 

This video is from another ExpertVillage series, in which you learn about recording a demo:

 

Hope this helps! Until next time,

Thanks,

RH

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Comedy In Music

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There are a lot of musicians that have incorporated comedy into their acts, but many people don’t understand that it takes more than some funny one-liners, on top of a decent melody, to make it work. Those who make it work are the ones who use melodies that are great, regardless of what type of song they’re for. In other words, the average listener would enjoy the melody in a funny song, or a serious song. The next step is to write lyrics that are clever, funny, and have some sort of meaning. There are two entertainers that come to mind, when I think about this: Tim Wilson and Unknown Hinson. Tim Wilson is, first and foremost, a comedian, but early on, he tried making it as a songwriter. After he got into comedy, he was able to combine the songwriting with the comedy, and make memorable songs that we all still laugh along to today. You can’t tell me you don’t even grin during “Chucky Cheese Hell” or “Jetpack”. Even his most recent material lives up to expectations. Something like “Who The Hell Puts A Handicapped Tag On A Black Corvette” is just as funny as his early stuff. This is also a key point in this. If you’re serious about doing comedy songs (serious about comedy…ha ha…contradictions are wonderful), you need to dig deep, and make sure you can keep doing it for years. I’ve heard people do a few funny songs, then they just stop, because that’s all they had. Somebody like John Prine is a great example of the right way to do this, in that situation. John Prine didn’t build his reputation on being a funny guy, but some of his stuff is hilarious! That being said, some of his stuff will make you cry your eyes out! Don’t put yourself in a box, if you’re not willing to close the lid. Now, Unknown Hinson is very similar to Tim. Stuart Baker started playing in Rock bands, at a young age, then later playing in a Honky Tonk Country band, to build up his chops. He made a couple of records, under his own name, and they didn’t sell well, so he ended up creating the character of Unknown Hinson. Unknown is the combination of Stuart’s mastered craft of singing, writing, and playing, mixed with hilarious lyrics of abusive relationships, sex, blow-up dolls, etc. Being able to keep a straight face when you sing a comedy song, as if you mean it in a serious way, makes all the difference in how seriously you’ll be taken as an artist. Tim Wilson and Unknown Hinson are still around today…that’s why.

 

Tim Wilson – Handicapped Tag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW5whIAH3Sg

Unknown Hinson – Man To Man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akuACgDryuU