Saturday, August 27, 2005

Roadie Report 6 (Aug Tour & Jim McGuinn Meets Gene Clark) by Camilla McGuinn

August 2005 Tour

I woke up Saturday morning, August 20th, groggy from a short night of sleep. We wanted to get an early start for the 2970-mile journey to Moses Lake, Washington. In planning the trip, we felt that seven days would be a comfortable length of time to make the drive before the Saturday, Aug 27th concert.

The week had been spent diligently working on THE FOLK DEN PROJECT. The ten-year anniversary of the creation of the FOLK DEN will be in November and we want to release a 4 CD box set at the November 27, 2005 concert being presented at Roger’s alma mater, Chicago’s OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC. The school is where he learned to play guitar and banjo. It is also where he fell in love with the melodies and lyrics of folk songs. We felt that a celebration of the FOLK DEN PROJECT should be enjoyed at the place of its inspiration.
(A modern photo of the Troubadour. Roger says it hasn't changed since the 1964.)

The actual Folk Den was the small front room in the Troubadour Club in West Hollywood, California. Musicians were welcome to gather there and jam. Doug Weston, the owner, was a generous man who often fed starving musicians. "Skinny McGuinny", Bobby Darin's moniker for Jim (Roger), lived on those hamburgers. In 1964 Jim was the opening act for Roger Miller and Hoyt Axton on the Troubadour stage. Gene Clark was in the audience and he liked Jim’s idea of combining folk music with a Beatle beat, so introduced himself. They began writing songs together. One day as they were jamming in the Folk Den, a student actor turned folk musician, heard them singing. He walked over and added an incredible harmony. During Jim’s first trip to Los Angeles in 1960 to accompany the Limeliters, he had spent a couple of weeks hanging out with the actor/singer. The trio’s voices blended beautifully that day in the Folk Den, but Jim wasn’t sure he wanted to work with this harmony songbird. He changed his mind when David Crosby mentioned that he had a friend who would let them record in a studio for free. The incubation of the BYRDS had begun. It all started in the Troubadour’s Folk Den.

Memories of those days and the purity of the pursuit of music inspired Roger to call his folk preservation project, the FOLK DEN.

Roger had recorded the songs for the FOLK DEN for free download in 11 KHz 8-bit .wav files, but he decided that for the box set, he would re-record the songs in CD quality. He had been working on the recordings for a while, but in this week before the August tour, we had to get the information for the CD booklet ready for the graphic artist. The photographs, text and the 100 songs had to be selected.

Sequencing the 4 CD set with 25 songs a piece, was a time consuming process. After Roger arranged the initial sequence, we listened to all the songs in their entirety so we could feel the flow of the CD. Some changes had to be made and when they were, a new CD would be burned and we would listen in entirety again. While we listened to the sequence, we would make notes for enhancing each song. We did that in the mornings. The afternoons were spent with all the other details, not to mention the normal office work that always demands my attention.

I put off packing until Friday night and even though my rule for suitcases is always just one bag, be it for three days or thirty; the office requirements for a month long tour needed a lot of concentration. It was 11:40 when I crawled into bed hoping I hadn't forgotten anything really important.

At 8am, everything was in the van and as I was making my final walk through the house. I had a thought that I should locate our passports so I could give directions to Michael, our house guardian, just in case we required them on the road. Since we would be on the West Coast, maybe we would need to fly to Japan for a sudden concert. I’m always on the lookout for another adventure.

I walked to the passport location while reviewing the directions in my mind. I opened the drawer. They weren’t there. I went through moments of disbelief and mild panic. Where were they? I’m sure I had put them in a safe place. There lies the problem; I have put things in very safe places before and have lost them for years.

Roger and I both looked for the passports in all the normal places. Finally Roger, said it was time to go and we would find them when we returned. On this tour, I would have to be satisfied with an American adventure and no surprise jaunts to islands far away.

Getting behind the wheel of the van at the beginning of a tour is exhilarating. The excitement of looking forward to days filled with new horizons and the anxiety of wondering if I’d forgotten anything important, always makes backing out of our curved driveway a little more difficult.

Roger turned on the TV and reclined in the back passenger seat. The GPS units were programmed to receive their signals with the directions to Moses Lake. I eased into the I-4 traffic while listening to the sounds of the TV newscaster coming from the back of the van. All of a sudden, “Cherry”, the front GPS said, “Recalculating route.” I hollered back to Roger, “What did I miss?” I had not paid attention to the GPS unit when it told me to take the Florida Turnpike exit. We weren’t even 4 miles from home and I was lost! Roger started laughing and “Cherry” gave me new directions to get me back on the right track.

We made it to Dalton, Georgia before sunset. After good meal and a short walk back to the hotel, we jumped on the beds like little kids and rejoiced that we were on the road again.

The Tennessee River (Photo by Camilla McGuinn)

The weather in Florida had topped the thermometer with record breaking heat, so the cool morning air in the foothills of Georgia was a delight. We were on Interstate 75 by 7am. After an hour of driving, the sun was glistening on the waterways and I wanted to take a picture. We stopped at the Tennessee River near the Nickajack dam. I walked down about 70 steps, then navigated a concrete drainage ditch to get to the water’s edge. The serenity of the morning sun on the still water provided me with a wonderful feeling of peace. Trudging back up the steps provided me with a good amount of exercise.

During Roger’s driving shift, I realized I needed something from one of the bags. Once again I went through moments of disbelief and mild panic. The bag wasn’t in the van. We had left it 300 miles behind us at the hotel. I called the Hampton Inn. Lisa contacted the housekeeping department while I waited anxiously holding my cell phone. They found the bag. She very graciously said they would send it to Moses Lake.

In two days, I had lost the passports, lost my way and lost a suitcase. We joked about calling this the lost tour. Well if we’re going to get lost, we are going to some beautiful parts of the country to do it in. We once heard a trucker on the CB radio say, ‘If you’ve got a full tank of gas. You’re never lost.”

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Roadie Report 5 (July final & Dolly Parton) by Camilla McGuinn

The July Tour 2005 (The Last Day)

Maureen and John waved goodbye to us early in the morning of July 7th. We knew the trip to Orlando would take about 11 hours because in May we had made a previous detour to Nashville at the request of Dolly Parton. She was recording a CD of her favorite songs and “Turn, Turn, Turn” was on her list. Dolly wanted Roger to play his Rickenbacker and sing with her on the song.

Photo by Camilla McGuinn

Dolly Parton is an amazing person. I once heard her say in an interview something like this; “I’m just like the girl next door…that is if you live next door to a freak show.” That statement gives a delighful insight into her sense of humor about herself, but in reality as Roger says, she’s a genius. Not even taking in account her incredible voice and talented songwriting, her business acumen, in a business that oppressed women for years, is astounding.

When we walked into the small studio, Dolly got just as excited at seeing Roger’s guitar as his fans do when they see it. While Roger tuned up, Dolly, her assistant Judy, who has been her friend since childhood, and myself talked girl talk. Our conversation went to age. There was a time when women never discussed their age, but I think we baby boomers are just shocked that we’re over 50. Dolly and Judy laughed about their upcoming joint 60th birthday party.

Roger sat down with Dolly at the recording board and played the tune, then he suggested to Dolly that there was a nice harmony part she could sing. She asked Roger to sing the part. The CD, "Those Were The Days," will be released October 11, 2005 and is filled with the people who sang on the original songs. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for all those sessions.

The Nashville traffic leaving town on this sunny July morning was light so I turned on the satellite radio. We were horrified to hear the news coming from the television feed of CNBC. London had just been racked with bombings to their transportation systems.

My breathing became short gasps for air as we listened to the conflicting news reports. I flashed back to September 11, 2001. We were in Malibu, CA., on tour with Judy Collins. I had just finished my shower when I walked into the room and stared at the television set. The sound was on mute, but the pictures screamed. The World Trade Center was collapsing into rubble and the nation came to a halt. Roger’s appearance on The Craig Kilbourne show was canceled. The concerts were canceled. We started immediately to drive home to Florida. As we crossed the desert, we lost all radio and television reception and we were desperate to know what was happening in our country. During our last telephone conversation with our attorney, Danna, whose husband is in law enforcement in Southern California, she told us that they had been warned to fill their gas tanks. We didn’t know if there would be enough gas to get the frantic population across the nation. The airlines were grounded and everyone wanted to get home. Traffic was going east and west. Interstate 10 became a busy highway even during the wee hours of the morning. It was after that trip that we installed satellite radios in our van. We never wanted to be out of touch in a crisis again.

Now, almost four years later, we were listening to the reports of another senseless tragedy. I kept changing the channels because all the networks had different stories. No one knew exactly what had happened. The number of bombs kept changing. All we knew was that a lot people had been killed and our hearts were grieving for all the people of London and England.

We listened to the world leaders give speeches, but it was the statement delivered by London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone that made an impact on us.

“I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.”

His so simply made the point that this was an attack on innocent people.

I finished my 100-mile shift and lay down on the couch in the back of the van. I wanted to escape from the visions in my head of the horror taking place in London. Over time I closed my eyes, but then I saw visions of the trains that Roger and I had enjoyed on every trip to England.

(Roger on a train in England. Photo by Camilla)

Our favorite concert tours have always been flying to England, buying a BritRail pass and taking the trains from city to city in the United Kingdom. Roger’s London agent, Nick Peel, always smiles at us like a parent to clueless children when we extol the wonders of the British rail system. He doesn’t realize that in America, our rail system is so sparse that every train ride is a delight to us. Now with my eyes closed, visions of the British transportation systems being bombed lingered in the shadows my mind. How many families were crying and groaning? How many people were looking frantically for the one they loved so much? There was no sleep on my off shifts, just tossing and prayers.

It was a long day of driving and when we finally arrived in Orlando, the sun was casting its last colors on our garden. Usually after a tour we say a prayer of thanks then enjoy the sunset in the garden, but on this night we wanted to reach out to London. We didn’t want to clog the phone lines, so after prayer, we emailed.

Later, as the stars initiated their nightly twinkle, we did sit quietly in the garden reflecting on the events of the past three weeks, the blessings and the sorrows. The tour was over and we were safely home.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Roadie Report 4 (July cont. w/ Donovan and THE FOLK DEN PROJECT Cover Photo Session) by Camilla McGuinn

The July Tour 2005 (cont.)

On July 3, we had 206 miles to drive before the evening concert in Torrington, Connecticut. Since we wanted to get there in time for a 2pm lunch, we left at 10am. I was pretty sure the traffic wouldn’t be too bad going south on the Maine turnpike and it wasn’t, but the folks driving north were backed up for miles at the New Hampshire toll booth. Too bad New Hampshire hasn’t joined the EZ Pass system. Even though we live in Florida, we subscribed to EZ Pass years ago. The dollar a month service fee is well worth the expense considering the amount of time we save driving quickly through the northeastern tollbooths.

We arrived at the Litchfield Inn just in time for lunch. There was a wedding being celebrated and we enjoyed the sounds and sights of the wedding party while we munched on a delicious meal.

The Litchfield Inn
Photo by Camilla McGuinn

The Litchfield Inn is an older hotel with a lot of history. Our room was called the Sherlock Holmes Room and it was a step back in time but with modern features including wireless internet access. How appropriate that we would have a room named after Mr. Holmes considering my childhood love of mysteries.

At 4pm, Woody the promoter picked us up for sound check. Donovan was just finishing his check when we arrived at the beautiful old Warner Theater. There is a treasure-trove of old theaters across America where history resonates to your senses. You can almost hear the laughter and smell the cigar of George Burns from the heyday of vaudeville as you walk across the historical stages.

I walked across the stage and gave Donovan a joyful hug. We tried to catch up on the last 10 years in 10 minutes. He looked great, sounded great and was as ingratiating as ever. My job of roadie demanded attention, so I had to excuse myself and get Roger’s equipment and staging arranged. Don and Roger had a reunion downstairs in the dressing room.

We finished sound check and the lighting cues with just enough time for me to set up my “lemonade stand” and to chat with the fans. There were a lot of people who had seen Roger in 1991 at TOAD’S PLACE in New Haven and a few from the April 22nd concert in Buffalo. It felt like a reunion.

At showtime, the lights in the theater went dark, Roger started playing his Rickenbacker while walking on stage, and the audience stood up with a roar. My heart always leaps when I hear an audience get as excited as I do at the sound of the opening notes of Roger’s guitar.

Roger had scheduled a photo shoot in Nashville for July 6. We wanted to avoid as much of the July 4th traffic as possible, so we got an early start Monday morning. We put the destination in “Nancy” and programmed the GPS to avoid freeways. The GPS directed us to some very small winding roads and it took an hour to get 30 miles. So much for a fast get away, but every turn was worthwhile just to behold the manicured beauty of the rural Connecticut countryside.

After the sightseeing hour, we hit the highways for Tennessee and surprisingly there was little traffic. July 5th, we arrived in Nashville in time for dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant, GOTEN.

In 2002, PEOPLE magazine had sent photographer John Chiasson to Orlando to photograph Roger in his natural habitat. John creatively placed Roger by our local pond and it became the picture the magazine editors featured in its article called “Rock of Aging.” Our fondness of John and his creative ways inspired us to have him photograph the FOLK DEN PROJECT album cover.

John was at the hotel at 9 o’clock, Wednesday morning. We checked out of the hotel and headed to a location he had scouted earlier. Around lunch time, we went to his home studio and met his wife, Maureen. She is a flight attendant for Continental Airlines and had just flown in from Tel Aviv. She looked great and was very upbeat! When I fly for hours, I look like I have flown for hours and I’m grumpy.

John Chiasson playing guitar with Roger. Photo by Camilla McGuinn

While John’s assistants set the scenes for the photo shoot in the studio, John and Roger played guitar. Roger usually does not enjoy photo sessions but with John he was relaxed and having fun. I didn’t even feel it was necessary for me to hang around to give Roger encouragement, so Maureen and I sat on their upper deck and discussed everything from the men we love, to our faith in GOD.

We had planned to begin driving the last leg of our trip home after the session, but John and Maureen talked us into spending the night in their home. Maureen efficiently prepared an incredible meal while guitars were being strummed in the other room. I just watched her in awe. Usually I love being a chef’s assistant, but her flight training carried over to her chef’s skills and I would have just been in the way.

We peacefully went to sleep that night in the cozy Chiasson guestroom. The photo session and the new found friendships made the Nashville stop a wonderful detour on our way home.