Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roadie Report 56 - The New "CCD" and Early In The Spring 2011 - by Camilla McGuinn

From the window of my office, I felt my face light up with anticipation as I studied the UPS delivery man unloading the boxes of CDs. The “CCD,” Roger’s moniker for the 23 songs of the sea CD, is ready to go to, and maybe Roger has autographed the first copies which will be sold at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago on June 3, 2011.

Creating the packaging for a CD project is as much fun as the recording. The sea songs recorded for this package reflect the golden age of sail, when wooden ships commanded the waves. History is often missed while singing lyrics to a beat, so we added a bit of historical research to the 8-panel package. All the photos are memories of our travels except the cover. It is the Argonaut, the painting hanging over Roger’s studio desk. The other five photos: 1) Roger looking out a window in Denmark during lunch on a cloudy day, 2) a sailing ship at the museum on the wharf in San Francisco, 3) the ocean swells taken from the Crystal Symphony balcony, 4) a sunset taken on the Crystal Serenity, and 5) a sailing ship’s mast photographed during the spring adventures I’m now writing about.

Getting on the road for a tour is always the most stressful part of touring. We have learned to leave the house under the watchful eyes of some very special people in the late afternoon, prior to the first day we need to drive at least 400 miles. If we leave the house by 1pm, we are usually somewhere wonderful by dinner.
Beautiful Jekyll Island, Georgia has become a favorite first stop. The sandy white beaches, the pristine park environment graced with the unusual modern Hampton Inn which will drive its guest to the local restaurants, beckons us to stay almost every trip when the route begins on Interstate 95.

It isn’t wise for us to drive the van north of Interstate 40 during the months of cold snowy storms. We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary with the first 2011 concert on April 1st in Vienna Virginia. The weather was warm when we left Florida. I forgot to pack a coat. The cold Virginia air didn’t let me forget about my absent mindedness. Roger assured me there would be a coat for me in a nearby store. What we didn’t count on was the stores were ready for a new season. Summer clothes were hanging on the racks where coats had once spent the winter. It was in the boy’s department of a sporting goods store where I found a hoodie warm enough to keep the chill away.

Monmouth University’s invitation to perform a concert followed by a lecture on a separate day always delights us, it‘s a favorite stop! After the lecture, the students join Roger playing “Mr. Tambourine Man” along with a few other BYRDS hits. Their intense excitement is a real treat to watch.

With four days before the next concert in Natick, Massachusetts, we meandered our way up Interstate 95 until we came to Mystic, Connecticut. After an early dinner, I captured the last photo I needed for “CCD.” Sailing ships docked a short distance from the restaurant were the perfect images to grace the back cover.

Temperature was rising under the bright blue sky during the drive to Williamstown, Massachusetts for a concert at the lovely Sterling Francine Clark Art Institute.
The beautiful college town, surrounded by Berkshire County, can only be reached by scenic country roads. An owner of our lodging, a Swedish Sea Captain’s wife, voiced her great pleasure when she heard “Mr. Tambourine Man” was staying at their Inn. We even got a room with a view.

We quickly navigated home to Florida from Williamstown. The recording, along with the packaging design of “CCD,” required a few more tweaks. After several very productive days, our wheels hit the road again up Interstate 95 to Old Saybrook, Connecticut but our timing was a bit off. The Easter holiday traffic snarls tortured me into gripping the steering wheel all the way from New York City’s George Washington Bridge to Saybrook. All the tension immediately left me the moment we walked into the lovely Saybrook Point Inn & Spa.

The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is wondrous, much like the actress herself. Miss Hepburn made Old Saybrook her home. The theater is a fitting tribute to one of our favorite thespians. Before the evening finished, I was emailing Andrea, Roger’s agent, requesting her to please book Roger here again with time for us to explore the picturesque town of Old Saybrook.

A few years ago a gentleman emailed asking if he could produce a DVD about Roger. Audience members often want to buy a recording of Roger’s concert stories. The opportunity for filming an evening of song and stories was just what we needed. The filming of a concert is now in the can or if you’re being technical, on several hard drives. We just need to finish the editing. Beverly, Massachusetts, the home of Paul Erickson the DVD producer, is on the way to Rockport, Massachusettes the town of our next concert. Paul, with Al Mercuro, has been very diligent arranging interviews with some fascinating people. It was a touching, yet humbling experience watching those interviews for the first time. Hopefully the DVD will be ready by the end of this year.

May Day at the newly restored Oneonta Theater in New York, sharing the marquis and stage with John Sebastian was a great way to begin the month. Roger and John have been friends since the early 60s in Greenwich Village. Back in the 60s everyone was in awe of John because he grew up in the Village. Just added to his cool!

In 2006, Jim Dickson, the original BYRDS manager, sent me a note asking me if I would write about some of his history for the McGuinn BLOG. My knees wobbled just thinking about writing Jim’s memoirs, the Byrds’ godfather. I barely knew Jim but as the writing progressed with email notes from him, I met a new friend. On May 3, Roger’s son Patrick, who is also the stepson of Jim’s former business partner, the late Eddie Tickner, told us Jim had passed away quietly in his apartment in California. In his lifetime, Jim’s ear for music influenced many, including the five young musicians he guided into musical history. His legacy will live on and on. Jim’s story is written in Roadie Reports 14, 15 and 39.

Traveling to Woodbridge, New Jersey; Bethel, New York and Ramapo College were stops on the tour before we headed to Hopkins, Minnesota followed by Iowa City, Iowa. Historical theaters are Roger’s favorite venues to sing his songs and tell the stories about his ‘back pages.’

After the Memorial Day Holiday, we will pack the van with copies of “CCD,” four instruments and maybe even a coat. Our journey’s first stop will be south side of Chicago, the part of town where Roger purchased his first 12-string acoustic guitar. The name Rickenbacker was unknown to him back then.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Roadie Report 55 - The End of 2010, Grand Ole Opry 1968 & 2010-by Camilla McGuinn

Today is the first Saturday in the third month of the year 2011. The past month was filled with filing the tax return, reading so many contracts that I felt like I should have gone to law school and unpacking suitcases. I woke up remembering that we always called the last day of the week “creative Saturday.” Our travels have kept us away from my desk for so long, that notes were coming in from the fifteen readers of the BLOG urging me to get back to work. My excuses are now is time to write.

I loaded all the pictures in my camera onto my computer. The pictures remind me of our adventures but while perusing the snapshots, I couldn’t remember how far back to go. There was only one choice. I had to do something I seldom do – I had to read the BLOG. Then I found myself reliving all the stories, so I gave up the idea of writing today and decided just to load the pictures.

Well, it was a short lived decision. Time had come for me to reflect on the last months of 2010 or they would be lost forever in the cobwebs of my mind.

2010 began with Roger sharing stories, aka lectures, on the cruise ship, The Queen Victoria while traversing through the Panama Canal. The work year ended in November with another cruise through the same canal on the Crystal Symphony. The sister ship of the Symphony, the Crystal Serenity, was the first ship that invited Roger to give his lecture, “How Folk Music Took Me to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Guests of the Crystal Cruise Line are treated so wonderfully, they will take a voyage whenever their schedules allow. On board, we re-acquainted ourselves with several couples who had sailed with us to Lisbon. It felt like a joyous family reunion. They appreciated the new stories Roger had added to the lectures. He realizes fans love to hear the same songs and stories but really enjoy the slight changes he always tries to add to each concert and lecture.

A highlight of this trip for me was zip-lining through the trees in Caldera, Costa Rica. Less the 30 folks joined the adventure, but I was totally impressed with a couple in their 80s. The wife was the only one of us who had previously experienced the tree zip.

After we were suited in our harnesses, the guide gave us our safety lecture. It was then I began having second thoughts. Especially when he said we had to stop ourselves on some of the lines and we should remember not to hold on to the wire, lest we lose our arm. Yikes…what if I forgot to let go? No one was anxious to be the first Tarzan or Jane. After the 80 year old lady bravely stepped on the box, I gulped and followed. By the end of the eighth zip-line. I was fearless and vowed to fly through the trees any chance I could get.

After the ship docked in San Pedro, California, a car drove us to downtown Los Angeles. Roger had been invited to an evening of conversation as a fund raiser for Live Talks Los Angeles . We were pleasantly surprised by the downtown development of Los Angeles. When we lived there, we never ventured to the city neighborhood. Now it has some wonderful restaurants and is beginning to feel like a place meant for walking. Los Angeles has always been a city for wheels, not for feet.

On the second day of adjusting to solid ground, we boarded AMTRAK's Coast Starlight for San Francisco so we would be close to Pleasanton, the location of the next concert. Our enthusiasm for our January experience in the early 20th century condo we rented was infectious enough to cause two friends to join us in the building to celebrate the Thanksgiving feast. It felt like a college dorm with cooks running between two condo kitchens. The aroma of roasting turkey wafted up the few steps that separated our condos to the scent of the baking pumpkin and apple pies.

The concert at the Pleasanton Theater on the Sunday after Thanksgiving was delightful. The only sad part was watching the people who had hoped to get tickets for the sold out show, leave without hearing the music.

Early in the morning of Nov 29th, we found our compartment on the California Zephyr train to Chicago. Once again, we were re-tracing our January trip, but this time we were spending four days in the windy city. Roger was returning to his alma mater, the OLD TOWN SCHOOL of FOLK MUSIC, for a concert and a fund raiser.

Living in the San Francisco condo for a short time gave us a feeling of being city residents. Even though Chicago is Roger's hometown, we both wanted that city resident feeling again so we decided to rent a condo in Chicago from the same website. The condo was perfectly situated on the 57 floor of a building and even had a Whole Foods Market on the ground floor. The weather was cold and snowing. It gets real cold in Chicago when the wind blows, but we never had to leave the building except to go to work. Our city resident experience became very vertical.

One of the Old Town School guitar instructors invited Roger to come to his class on our day off. The guitars were almost bigger than some of the students. We walked into the classroom while three of the older girls were getting settled in their seats. I began telling them that Roger had so diligently studied and practiced the guitar that when he was 17 years old, he began his professional career. That was 50 years ago. I noticed a blank stare and thought they weren’t comprehending the 50 years part of the story. I explained that 50 is one half of 100. They shook their heads and slightly rolled their eyes.

During the class, Roger played his guitar solo to Eight Miles High. A teacher overheard one of the girls whisper to to her friend, “He’s awesome!” The other replied, “Well he’s been playing for 55 million years!”

The train ride home from Chicago had a change in Washington DC with a 6 hour layover. As we were getting off the train, we met an interesting lady who called herself, Miss Lucas. Someday I might write about that encounter.

The Washington train station is one of my favorite transit places to spend a forced amount of time. The historic train station houses numerous tourist shops and an upscale shopping mall. We spent a delightful afternoon in a lovely restaurant tucked away in a corner of the station.

When people ask Roger to name the guitar players he most admires, Marty Stuart is at the top of the list. Marty plays guitar in the same intricate style of Clarence White and even owns one of Clarence’s guitars that he played in the BYRDS. Marty is a regular on the Grand Ole Opry and has always felt Roger should make a return appearance to bring a peaceful closure to the ill fated BYRDS’ performance in 1968.

CBS records had enough clout to get the rock group the “BYRDS” on the mother radio of country music WSM’s, Grand Ole Opry. The group had broken with the rock tradition and recorded a whole album of country music. It wasn’t the BYRDS first foray into the country sound. They had previously recorded songs in the country vein on “Turn,Turn,Turn, “5D” and “Younger Than Yesterday,” but never devoted an entire album to the genre. Even Roger’s “Mr. Spaceman” embraced the country beat. The “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album marked the first time a rock group dared to venture wholeheartedly into the country realm.

The live radio format of the “Grand Ole Opry” makes timing a critical element. At rehearsals, stop watches are marking every second. During the afternoon rehearsal of the show, the BYRDS sang two songs from “The Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album. The chosen single, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and another tune on the album, a song penned by Country music legend Meryl Haggard, “Sing me Back Home.”

The band was serious about the authenticity of the album and even cut their hair to appease the country audience. The first song the group sang on the live show, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” came off without a hitch but it was the second song that got the group blackballed from the Opry. Just before they began the count for the song, Gram Parsons walked up to the microphone and made a very bold statement. “We were suppose to sing a Meryl Haggard song, but my grandma has been listening to the Grand Ole Opry all of her life and I want to sing a song I wrote for her.” With that departure from the script, Gram began singing his song “Hickory Wind.” Roger looked to the side of the stage and the director looked like he had just swallowed something very disagreeable. Skeeter Davis was the only smiling face when they left the stage and walked out of the Ryman auditorium to the trailing echos of, "They'll never be invited back."

December 10, 2010:
The Grand Ole Opry show moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Ole Opry House in Opryland on March 16, 1974. During this Christmas season, it moved the radio show back to the Ryman because the Rockettes were performing on the Opry House stage. It was a poetic moment on the old Ryman stage when Marty Stuart announced his special guest, Roger McGuinn. They sang “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,”“Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Roger still hasn’t had a chance to sing that sweet Meryl Haggard song, “Sing Me Back Home” at the Opry, but he now sometimes delights audiences with this story and sings the song in his concerts.

Just before Christmas, a film crew from the BBC came to Orlando to interview Roger about the influence of the British invasion on America … the musical invasion. The show should be released in the United Kingdom before Roger’s concert tour there in October 2011.

In January, we were counting our blessings. The Crystal Serenity invited Roger to lecture on the first leg of its world cruise. There was one problem, we had to fly from Orlando to Los Angeles to board the ship, then fly home from Tahiti. We’re not fearful of flying for ourselves, but we have had guitars that didn’t fare to well. Have you seen the video “United Breaks Guitars?” It is not only United Airlines who breaks guitars. One airline promised to treat our luggage with “kid gloves.” Roger has laughingly mentioned that the only kid gloves that were used with his guitar were the ones the baggage crews were wearing when they drove a fork lift through the guitar case.

Our guitar dilemma was solved when author Greg Iles showed up at a Rock Bottom Remainders gig rolling a large guitar case. It immediately caught our attention and within weeks, we had four cases made for Roger’s working axes. We could now fly with a guitar.

We arrived in Los Angeles the day before the ships departure to be available for another BBC interview. The theme for this interview was "guitars" and thanks to our new rolling case, Roger was very happy to have the Roger McGuinn Martin HD7 guitar sitting on his lap. I understand this show will also air before the October 2011 United Kingdom tour.

The Crystal Serenity’s voyage to Tahiti had one stop in Hawaii where we enjoyed lunch with a dear friend. The rest of the time we were on the open ocean until the mountains of Moorea appeared on the early morning horizon.

Roger spent 13 days without checking email or getting telephone calls. Wow … he didn’t even miss it! Maybe I shouldn’t have written that comment - his reputation as a “techie” could be in jeopardy. Oh well, anyone 55 million years old doesn’t really have to worry about his reputation.