ROCK & ROLL LEGEND EDDIE COCHRAN | 50 YRS GONE, BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN

Fifty years ago today, the world lost one of Rock & Roll’s great pioneers of sound, songwriting and guitar playing in a tragic car crash– Eddie Cochran. The list of those that Cochran has influenced reads like a who’s who of Rock royalty; and includes everyone from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Hendrix– to the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Stray Cats, and many more.

1959, CA ~ The legendary Eddie Cochran ~ Image by © Michael Ochs Archives

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Eddie Cochran

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Gretsch Custom Shop G6120EC Eddie Cochran Tribute Model

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WINTER WHITES | JOHNNY & EDGAR — THE LEGENDARY WINTER BROTHERS

The Legendary Johnny Winter and his equally epic younger brother, Edgar Winter, began performing together when they were just kids. Their first TV appearance was on a local children’s television show in Houston / Beaumont area when they were somewhere around 10 years old, strumming the ukelele and singing. Both being Albino, and Johnny cross-eyed, they were quite a sight. The Winter brothers really glow in those old pics. it’s amazing.

Johnny Winter’s star rose quickly. He was the front man, and they began recording at the age of 15, when Johnny and the Jammers released “School Day Blues” on a local Houston record label. Coming up in the music scene back then he’d soak-in performances by his heroes– epic blues artists Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Bobby Bland. Johnny went on to become one of the best blues guitarists of all time. Edgar Winter took a more progressive route– with his smash hit Frankenstein” launching The Edgar Winter Group (with badass munchkin guitarist Rick Derringer) headfirst into major Rock and Roll stardom. I still love that monster riff, man.

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BUDDY MILES | THE BAND OF GYPSY’S FUNKY BADASS MOTHER DRUMMER

Buddy Miles– blues/rock funkmaster legend if there ever was one.  Miles was given the nickname “Buddy” as a child by his aunt– after the original drumming legend, Buddy Rich.  He and Jimi worked their way up in the music scene together around the same time– Buddy playing in various jazz, soul, R&B, and rock acts before finally co-founding the short-lived Electric Flag. The band’s first album, Electric Church, was even produced by Hendrix.  Miles returned the favor and recorded with Hendrix on Electric Ladyland. Later, with his signature afro and psychedelic get-ups that rivaled even Jimi– he, along with bass player Billy Cox, backed Hendrix in Band of Gypsys after the disbanding of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They had an amazing and funky chemistry that really riffed.  It’s been said that the Band of Gypsy’s album, recorded New Year’s Eve ’69 – New Year’s Day ’70, was primarily an obligatory move on Jimi’s part– as he owed the record company another album under the terms of his contract.  Who really cares, if that was in fact the case?  It worked, but unfortunately not for very long.  By the end of January they were done– disbanded following the infamous show at MSG.  And no, man– we aren’t going to talk about them California Raisins.  R.I.P. Buddy Miles.

1968– Buddy Miles and Jimi Hendrix recording Electric Ladyland, The Record Plant, NYC — © Eddie Kramer  “Jimi had a long standing warm relationship with Buddy Miles.  As one can tell from this photo, Jimi and Buddy can hardly contain their laughter. One of Jimi’s most endearing traits was his amazing sense of humor.  Even though at times it was directed at myself, Mitch and Noel, his humor was often quite self-deprecating.  This was all done in the desire to keep the session loose!” — EK

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Jimi Hendrix (Lucky Lager) and Buddy Miles, of the all-black badass funky rock trio Band of Gypsys.

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Jimi Hendrix on bass, Johnny Winter on guitar, and Buddy Miles on drums Feb. of ’69 at The Scene. — © Bill Nitopi (via)

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TIME FOR A CHANGE | ERIC CLAPTON, THE BAND, AND MUSIC FROM BIG PINK

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“Clapton is God.”

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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Have you ever thought you had it all?  Once-in-a-lifetime talent, looks, fame, adoring fans, beautiful women on your arms, private jets and chauffered cars at your beck and call.  People hang on your every word, and yet, you have that nagging feeling something is not right.  Is this it?  Who am I?  What purpose does my life have?

Then one day it hits you– hammers you actually.  You get total clarity and begin to change everything you’ve known and held sacred.   So it was when Eric Clapton heard The Bands Music from Big Pink.  It was like all of a sudden he heard this record and said to himself, “Now this is what music should sound like.” For me personally– this has always been one of the most interesting moments in rock music history.

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1968, NY– Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce of Cream. –Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

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Back in 1968, Clapton was leading Cream, playing to sold-out arenas, enjoying massive commercial success, and can sample all of the earthly pleasures that are thrown the way of a guitar god. Then he hears this album, by Dylan’s back up band no less, and decides Cream is done, and that the music he’s been playing is self indulgent crap.  In a way it makes sense.  By ’68 Clapton and Cream were so big, they could just show up and people would go crazy.  It was probably becoming a little too easy to “mail it in” on any given night.   Also, don’t under-estimate the power of ego– it always rears its ugly head. Clapton’s bandmates Jack Bruce (bass) and Ginger Baker (drums) were both virtuosos in their own right, and the competition to “out solo” each other at live shows probably got stale as well.  Ultimately all this, and the loss of comeradery and togetherness, took its toll.  Imagine taking a plane across the pond, then separate limos to different hotels, with each band member having totally different entourages to boot.  It would soon spell the end for of one of rock ‘n rolls most spectacular trios ever.

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Robert Whitaker, Eric Clapton, 1967, © Collection Robert Whitaker.

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Ultimately, I speculate here, by ’68 Clapton may have felt he had scaled the heights as a guitarist– there was him and Jimi Hendrix and everyone else– and in his private moments he may have sat wondering what to do next.  Like many of us he was looking for something to inspire him, to make him work at it. So when he put Music from Big Pink on his record player he listened once and was mesemerized, he listened a second time and may have been slightly confused (the vibe of the album makes it sounds like in could have been made in 1868), he listened a third time and began to feel that spark that every artist feels when they have a creative rush– and by the fourth listen Cream was done.

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EPIC 1965 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL | BOB DYLAN PLUGS IN– FANS TUNE OUT?

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Before he went electric in 1965 — and drew jeers from legions of (arguably small-minded) fans in the process — Bob Dylan epitomized the hard-traveling folk troubadour, and he established this image largely on a vintage Gibson “Nick Lucas” model flat-top guitar. The young Dylan had played other Martin and Gibson models in the late ’50s and early ’60s, but in those final years of his acoustic era, before a “blonde on blonde” Fender Telecaster ushered in a whole new folk-rock sound, the “Nick Lucas” was his instrument of choice. He played this guitar in the studio and on tour from 1963 to ’66, and used it for the legendary albums Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing it All Back Home. And, although it didn’t appear on the covers of either of these, it is frequently seen in the many live performance tapes from the day, including broadcasts of the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 and ’65, and Dylan’s famous appearances on BBC TV in England in 1965. While, in hindsight, this Gibson “Nick Lucas” seems “just right” for the young Dylan, and has become an iconic folk guitar as a result, the model’s origins show that it is perhaps an unlikely choice for a scruffy young folky.  Via

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Back in 1963, Bob Dylan was the new darling and outspoken voice of political protest in America, performing songs seeking truth and justice– “Only a Pawn in Their Game”,“Who Killed Davey Moore?”, and most notably, “Blowin’ in the Wind”— backed by the Folk movement’s super-establishment including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, and Peter, Paul & Mary. But Dylan’s talent quickly proved too big to be boxed in by the narrow and idealistic parameters of Folk purists.  By 1964 he’d already moved on musically– “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” showcased the emerging depth of his songwriting skills outside of protests and politics. Dylan’s fans worship him with a god-like fervor and frenzy.  At the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, the enthusiastic crowd woos Dylan– cheering, chanting, and roaring for him to return to the stage at the end of his acoustic set. When he reappears on stage, it’s a love-fest.  “I wanna say thank you, I love you”, says Dylan to the crowd.  He can seemingly do no wrong.
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Bob Dylan At Piano During Recording Session, 1965.  Bob Dylan in a contemplative mood, lost in thought behind his Ray-Bans, pausing for a break between takes at the upright piano at Studio A, Columbia Recording Studios in New York City during the sessions for “Highway 61 Revisited” in June 1965, a mere month before his electric set at the Newport Folk Festival would send Folk and Rock and Pop music into a whole new direction. –Photo by Jerry Schatzberg, Via

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By the summer of ’65, Dylan’s stardom surpassed that of the Folk traditionalists at the Newport Folk Festival. Hundreds of adoring fans overwhelm Dylan’s car, as he basks in the attention, smiling and stating, “They’re all my friends.” But there is wave of rebellion beginning to well-up against Dylan among the so-called Folk purist fans.  They see him as already being a sell-out, having moved over to the side of the establishment.  In their eyes, Dylan is now just another cog in the wheel.  The stage is now set for the epic event that will forever be remembered as– When Dylan Went Electric. So what inspired Dylan to go electric in the first place?  Some say Dylan was inspired (or challenged perhaps) by an exchange he had with John Lennon. Dylan slammed Lennon, essentially dismissing The Beatles lyrically– “you guys have nothing to say”, was the message.  Lennon’s counter was to enlighten Dylan of the fact that– he had no sound, man. Whether or not it resulted in Dylan going electric, or The Beatles writing more introspective lyrics, who knows–  but it’s a helluva story.

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LADIES LOVE OUTLAWS | WAYLON, WILLIE, JOHNNY, KRIS & COMPANY

 

“I’ve always been crazy– but it’s kept me from going insane.”

–Waylon Jennings

 

No one personified the hard-living, honky tonk, maverick life as much as Waylon Jennings did. Born in Littlefield, Texas, in 1937, he played bass with rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly in the 1950s, roomed and misbehaved with Johnny Cash in the 1960s, and had dozens of top-ten hits along the way—including 1978’s “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” But it was as an “Outlaw” that Waylon made his biggest contribution. Along with co-conspirators Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, the Outlaws streamlined arrangements, eschewed clichéd lyrics, and modernized country music by looking back to its soulful roots and mixing in a shot of rock-and-roll.  Waylon Jennings, Performance Center, Cambridge, MA, 1976  –Image by Henry Horenstein

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Circa 1974, College Station, TX — Willie Nelson thrills a young crowd 40,000 strong as he opens his ‘July 4th Picnic’ in College Station, Texas. Crowds of over 150,000 were expected during the three day weekend music fest. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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Circa 1969, Cummins, Arkansas — Singer Johnny Cash as he chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas.  April 10, 1969. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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HAMMER OF THE GODS | JIMMY PAGE’S EPIC DOUBLE NECK GIBSON GUITAR

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Jimmy Page playing the epic Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck guitar that he made famous the world over. In fact, the two are so intimately connected in the annals of Rock ‘n Roll history– it would take more balls than I could ever muster to even think of picking one up.

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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I had a history teacher back in high school that was kind of a crazy cross between Fred Rogers and Gandhi– Gene Beringer.  Gene’s probably the most mild-mannered cat I have ever come across.  I mean nothing– not even smart-ass 15 year olds who constantly screwed around in class (yep, yours truly), could get this guy riled up.  I had the dubious distinction of spending many a detention with Gene mano y mano.  Like I said, Gene was pretty laid back,  and so he’d often let me read and listen to my Walkman to pass the time, while he caught-up on grading papers.  One day Gene casually asked, “So what are you listening to?” My answer forever changed our relationship– Led Zeppelin.  He went deep into a 1,000 yard stare, and then finally uttered–  “Ya know, I saw Zeppelin about 30 times between ’74 and ‘78”, as a smile slowly warmed his stoic face.

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THE NASHVILLE PORTRAITS, PART II | PHOTOGRAPHY OF JIM McGUIRE

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Chet Atkins– Known as “Mister Guitar,” Atkins was a trailblazer who is widely credited for the creation of the so-called “Nashville Sound.” One of the most influential and best-loved guitarists in the history of the instrument, he became the president of RCA Records and produced many classic country albums. — 1976 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Prine–  Country/folk singer-songwriter originally from Illinois, has achieved critical and commercial success since his move to Nashville in the early 1970s. His grandfather played guitar with Merle Travis, and he took up the instrument himself at the age of 14.  He was a postman in Chicago and had served in the military before beginning his musical career. Already a star in Chicago’s folk music scene, he was discovered in a local club by Kris Kristofferson. He is known for his wildly imaginative songs and unusual voice and singing style. His 2006 release “Fair and Square” was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.  — 1984 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Hiatt– Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Hiatt, a rock guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter, moved to Nashville in the early 1970s to write songs and to find his musical voice. After his song “Sure as I’m Sitting Here” (recorded by Three Dog Night) became a top 40 hit, he was signed to a recording contract by Epic Records. This portrait was shot just before the release of his first solo album, recorded in 1974. Since then, he has released twenty albums, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Joan Baez, and Jimmy Buffet, to cite just a few.  *** — 2004 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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THE NASHVILLE PORTRAITS, PART I | PHOTOGRAPHY OF JIM McGUIRE

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Steve Earle–  Born 1955 in Virginia, he grew up in and around Texas.  Steve dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and began his pursuit of breakin’ into the music scene, and becoming a real deal singer/songwriter– like his hero Townes Van Zandt, who he was obsessed with.   Steve often tells of being all of 17 years old in 1972, and playing at the Old Quarter in Houston in front of a handful of patrons– one of them being Townes.  He was petrified up there on that tiny stage with Townes Van Zandt, who he still considers the best there ever was, sitting dead in front of him with his moccasins propped up on the stage right at Earle’s feet– and loudly heckling him between songs.  (Steve Earle unabashedly fesses to going out and buying a pair of said moccasins the very next day…) The two became close, and will always be joined in legend and history– it’s flat-out impossible to talk about one without the other.  Steve moved to Nashville (like alot of the songer/songwriters did in the 1970s after Kris Kristofferson had become a big star there) and played bass with another future legend, Guy Clark. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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Townes Van Zandt– One of the great tragic figures of country music, Fort Worth, Texas, native Townes Van Zandt was a folk singer, songwriter, performer and poet. He was particularly influential in the emergence of alternative country in the nineteen-seventies. Steve Earle described him as the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and his influence was felt by many other artists, including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett. Bob Dylan refers to this Texas native as his favorite songwriter. He wrote hundreds of haunting songs that have been widely recorded, perhaps most notably “Pancho and Lefty” which was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. — 1990 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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Texans Guy and Susanna Clark, both singer/songwriters, first came to Nashville at the time that same McGuire did, back in 1972.  They became fast friends when McGuire shot the cover photographs for Guy Clark’s first studio album “Old Number One”, which was released by RCA Records in 1975. During the 1970s, when this photograph was taken, the Clark’s Nashville home was a haven for emerging songwriters and musicians. Guy Clark has served as a mentor to many other songwriters, most notably Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, and numerous artists have recorded Guy Clark-penned songs. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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JOHNNY CASH | RIDIN’ THE RAILS

In “Walk the Line,” June Carter refers to Johnny Cash’s voice as “Steady like a train, sharp like a razor.”

Amen, sister.  When I think of Johnny, without fail I’ll get an image in my head of an old steam train– big, black, strong & steady.  And of course that classic Cash chicka-boom rhythm sounds just like a trusty ol’ train a rollin’ round the bend, and right on time– so reliable, you could set your watch to it.  Yeah, Johnny Cash sang a lot about trains, prison and hard times– and we all know through his epic lyrics that the beauty of the train is that it represents the freedom of leaving the past behind.  All that crap that you just need to separate yourself from with miles and miles of railroad track and dust. A new start, a second chance.

There’s also something lonely and soulful about a train ride– staring out as the barren landscape goes drifting by.  It’s just you and that train.  It holds you there firmly, with nothin’ to distract you from who and what you’re leaving behind– as the soothing click of the rails beneath your feet reminds you that soon it’ll all be long gone.

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