Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Roadie Report 80 by Camilla McGuinn - The Sweetheart of the Rodeo - 50 Years Later!

Marty Stuart, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillmans

We woke up early because we were so excited about celebrating my birthday on our porch during this break from touring since September 5th with Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" recording.

The idea for our tour came to us while we were sitting in the airport in Buenos Aires, on February 6, 2018. Our conversation centered on Chris and Connie Hillman. They'd had a particularly difficult 2017.

Chris was on the road promoting his new recording "Bidin' My Time" when his producer and our dear friend, Tom Petty, suddenly died. Then on Chris's birthday, they returned to their home after a celebration dinner to find that their house had been caught in the Thomas Fire. All their neighbor's houses were gone but most of theirs was still standing. They had to move out for months.

We wanted to do something special for the Hillmans and our conversation  turned to the recording of the "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." It had been 50 years since Roger and Chris released the recording to a very chilly reception, but over the years the music has risen to the top of  the ranks of appreciated Byrds' recordings.

We began tossing out an idea to each other, "What if we did a couple of dates to celebrate the "Sweetheart" album? Maybe we could get Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives to join us." Marty with the Superlatives had toured with Roger a couple of years ago and Roger loved every minute of playing with those amazing musicians.
Sound Check- A lot of music, fun and laughter!

Between emails and phone calls, Chris confirmed he was on board. Then it was the matter of seeing if Marty was available. Marty was touring with Chris Stapleton, so his schedule was filled, but he so wanted to do it that he gave the go ahead to start booking a few concert dates.

Roger insisted that his agent, Andrea Sabata from Skyline Music, book the tour because Roger is very particular about  where he plays and how often he will play and travel between concerts. For Andrea, it was a big challenge. She had to work around Marty's schedule and get approval from promoters  in the markets where Marty was playing with Stapelton.

Marty was going to celebrate his 60th birthday during the time frame of this tour and Chris was going to celebrate his 74th. We were thrilled to give musicians who loved playing guitars, the guitar Roger designed, the HD-7 String guitar, as a birthday present. 

Mike Campbell joined the band at the Ace Theater.

Dates in California came together quickly, so we packed the van and hit the road. The Theater at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles was the first of many beautiful theaters to follow. We really just wanted to do a few shows, but as the word spread and the schedule allowed, more dates kept streaming in. Some cites sold out so fast that a second night was added. Los Angeles, Albany, New York City and Clearwater were clamoring for a second show. Promoters and fans were inundating Andrea with requests for the show, but the schedule filled quickly and many were disappointed. Fans were buying airplane tickets from as far away as Europe.

The scramble for dates was intensified because this is a 50 year celebration and the year ends with the last date in Fort Lauderdale,  Florida on Dec 19, 2018. That show is almost sold out, but there are two December concerts  in Florida that haven't sold out yet, but there aren't many seats left. Ponte Verde and the second Clearwater date, which was just added, might have some seats available. I think the last show will be a very emotional moment for the players and the crew, I know it will be for the roadies, me and Connie.

Connie Hillman  had a career in music management for years while Chris was always touring. They had never really toured the way Roger and I do, so we became mentors to these two music pros on how to tour like it's a honeymoon.

After the concerts on the west coast, the Hillman's flew from their home in California to Kansas City and rented a car. We were a caravan through the mid-west and the east coast. Every morning, before we shifted into drive, Roger and Chris would sing into the walkie talkies (provided by"Mr. Techie" - Roger ) the theme from the 50's American Western TV series "Rawhide"

"Rolling, rolling, rolling
Keep them doggies rolling."

On the few days we weren't together I missed seeing Chris and Connie's car in the rear view mirror.

There was one special stop where the Hillman's weren't able to get a room reservation. It was a peaceful place on Lake Toxaway in North Carolina. When we told our destination to the shows monitor engineer, Radar was excited.
 He grew up in those mountains in NC. Actually, his name is Cody, but he reminded me of the character Radar from the TV series MASH. He was able to get everything done before anyone asked for the problem to be resolved. I used that moniker for him whenever I talked to him. The other smiling fact is that Radar and I celebrate our birthdays on the same day. He was turning 21 and I was turning 13... well that's if you add the two numbers of my age together, and then I'm the same age as Roger. We were both driving home during the break of the tour to celebrate our birthdays on October 22nd.

Our path through Hurricane Michael .
We are
the blue dot.
Connie and I became the roadies for our favorite guitar players. We even joked about making "The Roadie Work Out Video." Lift that guitar, hold that door, drive that van!" We are even  politicking for a badge to wear for driving through the constant rain remnants of hurricane Michael and sleeping in a hotel without electricity that night.

I had booked hotels that could accommodate the 8ft vertical clearance needed for our van and Connie booked the same hotels. We don't drive after 5pm, so the routing took a little work but it was worth it. We got to hotels, checked in, had cocktails and dinner. Connie and I were treated to two old friends telling funny stories about their Rock'n'Roll days and the mischief they got into.

But there was something more special we all talked about... our faith. We drove together, we ate together, we drank together, we introduced them to our friends across the country but most importantly, we prayed together.

It's 2:18 on October 22 and Roger is driving on the Florida Turnpike as I sit in the back of the van. I had finished my accounting for this leg of the tour and saw a blurb about my BLOG. I read it and was horrified to realize that I have written very little since my last birthday tour in 2017. Today is my birthday, again!  I do apologize to my 13 readers. You have been so patient and you are always encouraging me to write more. I don't know how this year passed so quickly.

I guess my tardiness  verifies  the old saying, "Time flies when you're having a good time!"

As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens man.
 Roger was so privileged to play with the amazing Marty Stuart!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Roadie Report 79 by Camilla McGuinn - "Sweet Memories" A Birthday Celebration

     After 40 years, thinking of a special birthday gift for the man I have so much fun living with is not easy, but I do know him. One of his favorite things to do is to pack the van and drive the back roads of the USA. So, for his 76th birthday, I arranged for us to hit the road and even better, release  his newest CD, "Sweet Memories." Here are the stories behind the songs:

      “Sweet Memories”
Includes three BYRDS hits, eight original songs and one fun 'Friday' song.

      “Sweet Memories” is the first rock-studio CD that Roger McGuinn has recorded since 2004. It is the album fans have been asking for at Roger’s concerts. They are continually asking for studio versions of the BYRDS songs.  So Roger re-recorded three BYRDS' hits from scratch and they were so authentically performed that everyone asks, “Did he use samples?” The answer is no! He played every instrument and sang every vocal including harmonies on “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “ So You Want To Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” There are also nine other songs never recorded before.­­

      “Sweet Memories” is a trip down memory lane for Roger McGuinn. It all begins when you open the package and see a letter he wrote to his family in 1965 on the back of a publicity photo of his new group, the BYRDS. He explained to his parents that their first song was written by Bob Dylan of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. The publicity photo Roger wrote on the back of is included in the collage of photos from Roger’s past on the opposite panel of the CD package. Get out your magnifying glass and see if you can identify the friends from a span of 60 years.

      There are 8 other songs that Roger and Camilla have written over the years. This CD seemed the perfect time to record them.

       "Chestnut Mare Christmas" - A continuation of the "Chestnut Mare" story. They were reluctant to write a sequel to that classic but the story continues with a tender message and Marty Stuart playing a galloping guitar!

      “Grapes of Wrath”- The inspiration for this song is the black and white 1940 Henry Fonda movie which the McGuinn’s enjoy watching on a rainy day.

      Sweet Memories”- Was written in the early 1980s in Morro Bay, California. The late New York DJ, Pete Fornatale, always encouraged Roger record it. The song was a favorite of Pete’s. To the McGuinns it wasn’t finished yet. There were still the European trips to write about and the wonderful train rides. Unfortunately, Pete passed on before it was recorded. When thinking about the title for this CD, that song seemed so appropriate because of all the memories on this disc.

      “Catching Rainbows” took years to write and just as long to record. It didn’t fall into place until the beginning of this CD. It too is a song about the McGuinn's adventures. The rainbow photo on the back cover of the CD with the song list was taken by Camilla on an ocean voyage.

      It was “5:18” in the afternoon when the McGuinns were sitting on their garden porch in Morro Bay, watching a storm rolling onto the California coast. At that time, they never dreamed of leaving California, but they did move a few years later.
      “The Tears” was written by Camilla on an airplane returning home to California after a long tour. She was thinking about Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Bells.” With a hotel scratch pad and pen, words were scribbled about all the tears many have shed in the privacy of a closet.

      Roger loves being on the ocean. “At The Edge of The Water” was written by him during the morning dawn while sitting on a ship’s balcony with his guitar.

      “Light Up The Darkness” was written in the McGuinn’s small rented condo in Century City within a year of their marriage. It was the beginning of a long beautiful relationship in life and work.

      “Friday” - Roger recorded the song “Friday” because he and Camilla laughed so hard watching the spoof  video on youtube they couldn’t stay in their chairs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4KwBklNuSE   They even had to research the song to make sure it wasn’t written by Bob Dylan. Roger emailed the creator of the video, Nate Herman, and told him how much enjoyed his work and was thinking of recording the song himself. Nate replied, “Life imitating art imitating life.”

Roger's CDs can be purchased from https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/RogerMcGuinn
or if you're more comfortable with Amazon:

      We're relaxing in Flagstaff, AZ as I write this BLOG. The van tires are rolling on the way to California to join Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives for the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the "Sweetheart of the Rodeo."

      Our day was spent exploring the "Petrified Forest." Oh what a day!

Route 66

The Local Resident

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Roadie Report 78 by Camilla McGuinn- "A Hurricane, A Flood, A Friend, A Fire and A Victory!...Part 2

We finished the three remaining Southern California dates with a different sense of purpose. Roger will always sing Tom Petty songs and tell the stories of meeting and touring with Tom. He hopes people will laugh, smile and quietly remember a truly gifted artist we were all blessed with for far too short a time.
The audiences at the Shannon Center at Whittier College, the Smother’s Theater at Pepperdine University and the Poway Center in Poway were very responsive to the Tom Petty’s songs and stories. Then it was time to head north to the Carriage House Theater at Montalvo Arts Center.
We arrived in Los Gatos the same time the smoke from the Napa fires reached the quaint town. Everyone was in a state of disbelief. Watching the fires on TV, we saw the entrance to the Napa neighborhood where we had once stayed at a friend’s house. The houses were gone. A frantic call to Adriene brought some relief. She had sold the house a few months before and was living in San Francisco. She was so sad for the present owners.
Then we emailed Chris and Connie Hillman to see how their son Nick was faring. He worked at a Napa vineyard. He told Connie that the harvest was finished before the fires began, so all was not lost.
One more frantic email needed to be sent. This email was   to our friend Linda whose sister lives in Napa. She told us that her sister and husband got out of their house in time with just the clothes on their backs.
 A few months later, the Hillmans managed to get out of their house in Ventura before The Thomas fire burned through their kitchen. Their house was the only one left standing on their street.
We’re praying a lot of prayers of thankfulness for the lives which were not lost and for “Beauty for Ashes” for those who have to rebuild and refurbish their memories.
Disasters seemed to be following us but it was only the rain and smoke that affected us… to this point. But I won’t leave you hanging now, I’ll give you a clue. The next strange thing brought us smiles. Remember the title ends in a “Victory”. That’s at the end of this story.
        Three days after Montvalo, Roger was performing at the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center in Forest Grove, Oregon.

The day after, we were invited for the Harvest Lunch at the Cristom Vineyard near Salem in the Willamette Valley wine region. I even got to be part of the grape harvest process – I pulled a leaf out of the grape bin. Roger even caught the moment on video.  I was so thrilled.

The owner was busy filling the oak barrels with wine while we had lunch with the winemaker, Steve and his family, the CEO, our old friend Steve Thomson and his wife Karen and the grape harvesters. I had a dream of joining in a grape harvest in France but to experience that day in Oregon was even better. I love that the Cristom grapes are allowed to ferment naturally without any designer yeast. I found out a few years ago that I am very allergic to designer yeast that many vineyards use to make sure they have a barrel that tastes the same every time.

A few unscheduled days before the next Kirkland, Washington concert, sent me on a quest to find a special place to relax. Just a few miles from the Cristom Vineyard was the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg. Strolling and relaxing in the beautiful room and gardens of the Allison Inn added length to our lives. A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life. I read that in the Good Book.

The Kirkland Performing Arts Center sold out quickly to an enthusiastic audience. Heading south to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday after all the good shows made the drive even more enjoyable.

San Francisco has always been a favorite city of ours and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my birthday. The Ritz Carlton even had a special, 4 nights for the price of three. Now that was a great gift.

I told Roger that there were places we haven’t explored in the city and since it was my birthday, we put on our walking shoes. The first adventure was Alcatraz. I tweeted that I was taking Roger to prison. We walked from the hotel to the harbor through crowded China town and caught the ferry to the island. There was a very steep pathway up to the prison and I wasn’t sure our knees would take it, but Roger insisted we persevere. The self guided audio tour took about an hour and it was a very good history lesson.

        Back in San Francisco we began the walk back up the steep hills to our hotel when I gave up and called Uber. I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get back into the cool of the hotel lounge.

  Coit Tower was the next place I insisted we visit. Yep, we walked the two miles up the steep San Francisco hills to the tower. Fortunately when we finally made it to the entrance, there was an elevator to take us to the top.

At the top of the tower, Roger asked teasingly, “Now Camilla, are there any other walks you want to go on for your birthday?

I quickly laughed, “Yes, I want to walk back to the hotel.” I did try to order an Uber, but Roger was having fun encouraging me to fulfill all my birthday fantasies.

        The last hill was looming in front of us, when I saw the loading dock for the hotel halfway up the hill. A man was taking a break at the entrance and I approached him, “Is there an elevator that can take us to our room?” He smiled, “Follow me.” As he was taking us to the service elevator, he gave us a tour of the backstage area of the Ritz Carlton. We met the security officer, passed the Human Resources office and walked through a maze of halls. We got on the elevator and it stopped at the next floor. The concierge we had been talking to earlier got on. She was shocked when she recognized us. “What are you doing here?” “Oh, I was just applying for a job at the Human Resource office.” When we got to the lounge she told me to sit and she would bring me some cold ice tea. I think I probably looked like I had just climbed every hill in San Francisco. Wow, my husband is 9 years older and he looked great! He had champagne.

There was one more California date on the Central California coast where we used to live, The Clark Center for The Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. The audience was filled with dear friends.

        California Highway 58 was the road we chose to head east to Texas. The route took us on the back roads of California. It was a beautiful, stress free drive. We had five days to get to Houston for the concert we had re-scheduled. SO… it was still my birthday tour and there was one place I have always wanted to visit – Roswell, New Mexico, the home of the International UFO Museum. I took Roger to prison; I might as well take him to meet Mr. Spaceman. 

      Roswell was a lot larger than I had imagined. It is the fifth-largest city in New Mexico, population 49,000- about the size of a Los Angeles suburb. A Hampton Inn and Red Lobster made it a perfect stopping place. 
 The UFO museum was funny and enjoyable to walk around but the real museum in Roswell is the Roswell Museum and Art Center because it has the workshop of the father of rocket travel, Robert Goddard. This museum is the real reason to go to Roswell. When the German scientists were being interrogated after World War II, one scientist asked the interrogators “Why are you asking me? Why didn’t you listen to Goddard? That’s where we learned everything about rockets.” Roger has always been scientifically minded but I jumped over that subject in school. This museum made me want to know more. We learned so much.

Now it was time to head to the victory I talked about earlier. The Houston Astros had made it to the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers were standing in the way of their victory. I used to go to Dodger games, so I was a bit torn as to whom to root for, but Houston needed something to celebrate after the floods. We were jumping on the beds after Houston won.
We got to the outskirts of Houston the day before Roger’s concert. I talked to a lady in the hotel who had been living there since the floods had destroyed her house. She wasn’t sad, she was exuberant! Her team had won the World Series and she was going to the victory parade! What we didn’t realize was that there was going to be a victory parade in downtown Houston on the day of Roger’s concert in downtown Houston.

I checked the schedule of the parade and tried to time our drive to the downtown venue to avoid the crowds. I got that right, but after unloading our equipment, the parade stopped and one million people were walking the streets. The roads to our hotel were blocked off. After circling the streets, Roger got out of the van and explained to the police officer, who was directing the flood of traffic, that our hotel was right behind her, but the way was blocked. She opened the path. At last we were at the hotel and needed to eat before the sound check. Well thousands of folks wanted to celebrate and eat. This was another problem, but I found a way to get us food and as we ate in our room, we felt like celebrating too. We were a part of celebrating Houston’s victory!

                                  Hey Mr. Spaceman!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Roadie Report 77 by Camilla McGuinn- "A Hurricane, A Flood, A Friend, A Fire and A Victory!... Part 1

     Hurricane Irma was moving up the coast of Florida after leaving destruction in the Caribbean. The time was approaching for us to hit the road for a two month concert tour and it looked like we were about to join hurricane evacuation traffic again. We had experienced hurricane evacuation traffic before because when concerts are booked we can't take the chance of all the lovely trees in our neighborhood blocking our exit for days. The idea of taking nine hours to get to the Georgia state line in bumper to bumper traffic held no peace with us. We waited to leave until the day before the wind was predicted  to touch our homestead. That decision is frowned upon by folks in the know but I noticed that all the coverage of destruction from the recent storms had the highways jammed for days.

     On September 9th, we loaded our equipment in the van and began driving around 10:am. As we drove onto the Florida Turnpike there wasn't a car or truck to be seen. It was the fastest drive to  Georgia ever. Several days before, I had reserved a hotel room in Valdosta, Georgia. When I was checking in, the desk attendant would answer the constantly ringing telephone with, " We have no vacancies. Valdosta is booked for the night."  The elevator to our room was filled with people. I asked one man where he was from.
"When did you get here?"
"Yesterday. It took nine hours."
I said a silent prayer of gratitude.

     The next morning, we took the back roads to Montgomery, Alabama. The local radio was reporting school closures. The storm was right behind us.

     We made it to Paducah Tuesday afternoon listening to the weather warnings all the way north. We haven't stayed in Paducah for years because we weren't very impressed the first time we stopped there. The Tennessee and Ohio rivers have a tendency to flood at that junction. The city erected a very high wall to keep the flood waters off the streets and out of the houses.

That seemed to take away some of the beauty but during this stop we saw a town that was revitalized, quaint and a delight to walk around. There was a new hotel downtown and lots of restaurants and antique stores. Our early dinner at Shandies was prepared especially for us by the chef who stopped by our table and asked us if there was anything we wanted. I wanted to combine a few menu items and take away a few others.

The chef knew exactly what to do. Wow...Paducah had changed a lot in the ten years we had been passing by.

    We were taking our time getting to Minneapolis because Hurricane Irma made us leave earlier than necessary. We arrived very relaxed, though a bit concerned about our home. Our neighbors were in touch. Even though the power was out for three days, Mia our 13 year old neighbor next door, figured out that they could talk to us on the battery powered  "Ring Doorbell." The only problem, they rang the bell just when we were at a pit stop. I checked my phone video and saw two young girls saying, "Hello, hello." It turned out the other young girl was Mia's mother. I think that says I'm getting older... well we were celebrating my 66th birthday on this tour.

   The Pantages Theater in Minneapolis is beautiful. Just the type of theater in which Roger loves to perform his one man play. The next concert was at the beautiful Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts in Sheboygan WI. This theater is run by two staff members and a whole town of wonderful volunteers. I loved hearing about their special events.

     We stayed at the historical, "The American Club." This hotel was built by Walter J. Kohler in 1918 to house the immigrant laborers who came to work at the Kohler Co. The garden was being prepared for a wedding when we arrived. There is a museum next door but we didn't have time to explore it. I'm definitely going to make time when we get another chance. A museum of Kohler kitchen and powder rooms...of okay...bathrooms. Thrones everywhere!
I love kitchens, cooking and the thought of remodeling our bathroom.

     I was real excited about our next special stop. We were staying in Natchitoches and they finally got a hotel downtown. As the GPS was navigating us to our hotel address, Roger commented that he thought Natchitoches was in Louisiana not Texas. My mouth dropped open. It is in Louisiana! Where did I book our hotel?

     The Fredonia Hotel is in Nacogdoches, TX. Well with the names spelling so close, anyone could make a mistake like that! We arrived early enough to explore the town. As we were cooling off  from the hot weather, the locals helped clear up the mystery.

     Natchitoches and Nacogdoches were indigenous American twin brothers. Their father pointed one east and the other west so they wouldn't fight with each other. Two towns were born. That's their story and they're sticking to it.

     The Houston Theater was scheduled for September 21st but the promoter agreed with me that a flooded town probably wasn't in the mood for a concert, so we rescheduled it for November 3rd. It would be on our way home from the two month west coast tour. There is more to tell about that night in part two of this blog.

     Austin wasn't affected by the hurricanes, so we headed to the Lady Bird Lake (formerly called Town Lake) hotel where we could see folks gather in the evenings to watch the bats.
One night of bat watching ... then it was time for the Paramount Theater concert.

     There is a lovely drive from Austin to Fredericksburg Texas where we always love to stop at the Hampton Inn & Suites so we can walk to the Navajo Grill for dinner. I've written about this before.

     Driving through Texas is fun! It is the wild west and the speed limits go up to 85 miles an hour. Our Ford Transit conversion van handles the curves and speeds like a sports car.

     We had a week before the next concert in Aliso Viejo, CA and since this was my birthday tour, I booked a hotel I have always wanted to stay in, The Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel.
We had two days to enjoy the views and our new friends Terry and Kevin. We met them over hor d'oeuvres and became fast friends. They are even from a town I went to school in, Cary, North Carolina. We had fun reminiscing about Ashworth's Drug store's hotdogs.

     We migrated to Aliso Viejo on the day of the concert and were delighted with the enclave where our hotel was located. So much so, we decided to spend another night there. Then we did something we seldom do ... we went to a movie theater. Usually we avoid them because it was invariable that someone behind us would be coughing and a cold for a singer can be devastating. We saw "American Assassin". Very unrealistic but a touch of the James Bond flavor, so a sequel must be coming.

     The Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College was our next concert venue. We checked into the hotel the day before the concert. As I was checking my email, I gasped. A friend was sending condolences about Tom Petty.

      We didn't know what had happened, so we immediately began reaching out to people who might know.

     It took awhile. The initial reports were wrong. Tom had not died but he did a while later. We couldn't believe it. My email was inundated with interview request wanting comments about Tom, but that was the last thing Roger wanted to do. He wanted to reflect on the life of his friend quietly.

     Roger did want to talk to Chris Hillman. Chris had just finished recording with Tom and was on the road. When we connected with him, he was devastated and wanted to cancel his tour. Roger told him that Tom would not have wanted him to cancel his tour but to go on stage as a tribute to Tom.

     I reflected on sitting backstage at a table with Tom during the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony. Tom had invited Roger to induct him into the Hall of Fame and sing "American Girl" for the ceremony. Tom and I talked about some of the silly fads going around but when he talked about his granddaughter, Everly, his eyes lit up. I was so sad to think that Everly would never get to fully experience the depth of his love for her. I was also sad thinking about Dana, Adria, Kim and all the people who were very important parts of the vast Petty machine. There is a great empty hole in the universe now and in our hearts.

     Roger has often had a segment in his concerts with a Tom Petty set. It includes stories and songs of their first meetings and touring together. From now on those songs and stories will always be in Roger's concerts. He will always celebrate the life and music of his dear friend.

To be continued.....