Showing posts with label #ZZ Top. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #ZZ Top. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Billy Gibbons Interview: “More ZZ with a defiant touch of our raucous and raunchy beginnings”

By Ray Shasho

Billy Gibbons/ ZZ Top Interview:

Billy Gibbons and ZZ Top have essentially pioneered its own musical genre since the release of their first studio album in 1971. The band fused hard rock, blues, and Texas boogie into their own unique sound, style, and live performance. The hard rockin’ power trio of Billy Gibbons (guitars, vocals), Dusty Hill (bassist and vocalist) and Frank Beard (drums) has energetically and persistently entertained audiences worldwide for over forty years.

ZZ Top will be bringing their Texas-style rock & blues boogie to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on December 27th and to the Hard Rock Live in Orlando on December 29th. Tickets for the Clearwater show are available at or by calling 727-791-7400 for more information. Tickets for the Orlando show are available at or call 407-351-(LIVE) 5483.

In 2012, after a nine year hiatus from the recording studio, ZZ Top released their fifteenth studio album entitled La Futura. The album spotlights many of the attributes that has distinguished the band as rock music legends. Tracks like “Chartreuse,” “Have a Little Mercy” and “Big Shiny Nine” reminisce to the Top’s heyday while igniting habitual hot and saucy Texas boogie intoxication. “Heartache in Blue” is my favorite track on the album, an exceptional blend of the blues highlighting Gibbons impressive guitar licks with virtuoso harpist James Harman. The track “Flyin High” was actually requested by longtime ZZ Top fan and NASA astronaut Mike Fossum. It was played in space on-board the Soyuz spacecraft during its launch to the International Space Station.

The Best Buy version of the CD includes two bonus tracks … “Threshold of a Breakdown” and “Drive by Lover” another personal favorite and skillfully choired by bassist Dusty Hill.

La Futura is an exhilarating Texas boogie & blues pilgrimage … ZZ Top style! I gave La Futura (4) Stars.

BILLY GIBBONS was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Billy received his first electric guitar after his thirteenth birthday. Some of his early influences included electric blues musician and songwriter Jimmy Reed.

While attending Warner Brothers’ art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons played with various bands. At 18, he formed the psychedelic blues-rock group, The Moving Sidewalks, inspired by fellow musician and friend Rory Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators. The band recorded one album entitled Flash (1968).The Moving Sidewalks were …Billy Gibbons, Tom Moore, Don Summers and Dan Mitchell.

Gibbons became a prominent songwriter with his penned releases “99th Floor” and “Need Me.” The band performed with The Doors and with Jimi Hendrix during his first American tour. Gibbons also formed a special friendship with Hendrix. Hendrix mentioned Billy on The Dick Cavett Show by stating that Gibbons would be the next big thing as a guitarist. Hendrix gave the up and coming guitarist a pink Stratocaster.

ZZ TOP was formed in Houston, Texas in 1969. After various lineup changes, the classic line-up of Gibbons, Hill and Beard signed with London Records and recorded their debut self-titled album in 1971. Early on, Gibbons became the bands principal songwriter. The group also began a long and rewarding relationship with manager/producer Bill Ham.

In 1972, the band followed up in the studio with Rio Grande Mud.

The release of their third studio album entitled Tres Hombres (1973) would define ZZ Top’s perennial sound and style while launching the band into rock stardom, performing at large arenas and stadiums. Tres Hombres (Top 10 album) was a brilliant rock & blues statement. The album spawned the bands signature tune “La Grange” (#41 Billboard Hot 100), a song about a bordello near La Grange, Texas. Other notable tracks were “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” and “Waitin’ for the Bus.”

In 1975, ZZ Top released Fandango! (Top 10 album) Half of the tracks were recorded live in concert and the other half were new studio released songs. ZZ Top was now a top headlining concert attraction selling-out arenas worldwide. The Fandango tour consisted of three legs and 55 shows. It began in March of 1975 and ended February of 1976. Various supporting acts during the tour included KISS, Status Quo, Peter Frampton, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Aerosmith and Blue Ӧyster Cult to name a few. Fandango spawned the hit single “Tush” (#20 Billboard Hot 100).

Tejas (Spanish for Texas) was released in 1976.

The band signed with Warner Brothers Records in 1979 and released their sixth studio album entitled Degüello. The album generated two hit singles … “I Thank You” (#34 hit single) and “Cheap Sunglasses” (#89 hit single). Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill also grew their chest length beards during this period. In 1981, they released El Loco while spawning the singles … “Tube Snake Boogie,” (#4 hit) “Leila” and “Pearl Necklace” (#28 hit).

In 1983, ZZ Top released Eliminator reaching the Top 10 in the album charts. The album scored five hit singles … “Gimme All Your Lovin’” (#37 Billboard Hot 100), “Got Me Under Pressure,” “Sharp Dressed Man” (#56 hit), “TV Dinners” (#38 hit) and “Legs”( #8 Billboard Hot 100). The “Legs” video won the 1984 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video. The Eliminator album became ZZ Top’s most commercially successful album to date with sales over 10 million copies.

ZZ Top released their ninth studio album entitled Afterburner in 1985. The album became their highest charting album at #8 in the U.S. The album generated the hit singles … “Sleeping Bag” (#8 Billboard Hot 100), (#1 Mainstream Rock Tracks), “Velcro Fly” (#35 Billboard Hot 100), “Stages” (#21 hit) and “Rough Boy” (#22 hit).
In 1990, ZZ Top released Recycler. It was their final album with Warner Brothers Records. The track “Doubleback” was featured in the film Back to the Future Part III. The single “My Head’s in Mississippi” reached #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.

In 1994, the band signed with RCA Records and released their 11th studio album entitled Antenna. The single “Pincushion” reached #1 the Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. Billy Gibbons co-produced with Bill Ham on the album.

Subsequent releasesRhythmeen (1996), XXX (1999), Mescalero (2003) and La Futura (2012).

Rhythmeen was the last album to feature their longtime producer Bill Ham. Rick Rubin shared duties as producer with Billy Gibbons on La Futura in 2012.

In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Keith Richards. ZZ Top has generated 11 gold records, 7 platinum, 13-multi-platinum records, while selling over 25-million units.

ZZ Top continues to tour relentlessly and still packs the house worldwide.

On March 30th 2013, after 44 years, the original lineup of The Moving Sidewalks performed a reunion show at B.B. Kings Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

I had the rare opportunity to ask Billy about ZZ Top’s current tour, the band’s latest studio release, his relationship with Jimi Hendrix, my infamous “Field of Dreams” wish question, and much-much more.

Here’s my recent interview with legendary guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, car customizer and founder of classic rock legends ZZ Top …BILLY GIBBONS.
Ray Shasho: Hello Billy! ZZ Top will be performing at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on December 27th and the Tampa Bay area is especially looking forward to that show. The band will also be in Orlando at Hard Rock Live on the 29th. Where and how will you be celebrating Christmas in 2013?
Billy Gibbons:With Miz Gilligan in Florida, well in advance of December Twenty-Five, in order to get warm, sample the seafood, hit the gaming tables, seek out Mexican cuisine, go to Versailles for Cuban fare, charter an afternoon for salt water fishing, take in a night at the dog track, take in a ball game, take in something frosty around South Beach…basically chillin' before taking the stage with my pals. An elegant simple scheduling.”
Ray Shasho: “I saw the band perform for the first time around 1973 at the Baltimore Civic Center … ZZ Top opened for Earth, Wind and Fire and Uriah Heep. I knew the band was going places after that performance; I never witnessed a power trio with so much energy and raw power.
Billy Gibbons:That's about as on target as I've ever heard and right to the point as we, the band, were aimed at free drinks and getting on the gals. And to accomplish the task, we fired up the tempo, cranked up the volume, and let it rip. Hard! And it definitely set the tone for what was to come and what remains as the driving force, even now.”
Ray Shasho: Why do you think the trio has worked so successfully over the years, especially with all the bizarre changes in the music industry?
Billy Gibbons:Amidst the rampant gallop of attempting to maintain pace with an increasing speed of change, working within the trio as a base is just like a pyramid…the 3 sides stand stridently around the constantly shifting sands. I say, “Three is for me!””
Ray Shasho: One of my favorite ZZ Top tunes is “Jesus Just Left Chicago” just an incredible hard-driving blues classic …What is the origin behind that classic blues/rock song?
Billy Gibbons: “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is certainly an obtuse mental visual, particularly placing a fixed location, moving forward from, and going to. The surreal combination of Jesus, Chicago, and New Orleans, is a bizarre mix of righteousness, and soulful sin. It’s a blend of bluesy elements stirring up some salient points to ponder.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Norman Greenbaum about “Spirit in the Sky” and the similarities to Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again,” yet they’re also very different in their own ways … Was the “La Grange” riff based on John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun”?
Billy Gibbons: “The “La Grange” riff is another interpretation of one of the cornerstone staples of that splendid American art form, the blues. There are many ways to chop it, we just got really lucky and landed something with resonance that lasts and lasts.”
Ray Shasho: Billy, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish, like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be? (You can name more than one person)
Billy Gibbons: “Ry Cooder. The expressions from that Rylander-man are many and I know there's somewhere he'd go and that sooner or later, I would fit in. Ry's range is that wide. I'll call 'im directly and get the ball rolling.”
Ray Shasho: The Moving Sidewalks was a cool psychedelic blues band. The band opened for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and you developed a special friendship with Hendrix.
Billy Gibbons: “Yes, and it's fair to tag Jimi Hendrix and The Experience with threads that tie into psychedelic blues quite handily. Jimi was always generous in sharing his curiosity about how certain sounds could be created from an imaginary idea. We spent many hours comparing pragmatic ways to bring those vaporous thoughts into tangible, electric form. When Jimi had no guidebook, he invented one.”
Ray Shasho: Did Hendrix actually give you a pink Stratocaster?
Billy Gibbons: “It's the one seen in the famed photo with The Moving Sidewalks.”
Ray Shasho: Your latest studio release “La Futura” has gotten rave reviews and the track “Flyin’ High” was even requested by astronaut Mike Fossum during a launch to the International Space Station.
Billy Gibbons: “Wow. Who'da thought writing the track with my pal, Austin Hanks, would take off from our studio shack in L A and land a seat in outer space…?!? We just wanted to create a good Southern rock song. Now it's a stratospheric number.”
Ray Shasho: After a nine year hiatus from recording, what made this album such a success?
Billy Gibbons:Good material as they say… And the richness of Rick Rubin standing alongside us and turning us into more of what we already were. More ZZ with a defiant touch of our raucous and raunchy beginnings.”
Ray Shasho: What was it like working with Rick Rubin?
Billy Gibbons: “Super sounds in the studio, interspersed with surfin' safaris at Zuma Beach.”
Ray Shasho: Billy, what factors make a great producer?
Billy Gibbons: “Patience. We learned it early on. The studio sessions for "La Futura" left no doubt about Rick's ability to be in no hurry. The result is the luxury of the band playing a composed piece in many different ways and going with the flow. It takes time, of course, yet that again is the value of maintaining a measure of patience to get there.”
Ray Shasho: Who are some of the producers that you’ve admired over the years?
Billy Gibbons: “The staff specialists from Ardent Studios in Memphis, particularly Joe Hardy who has steadfastly guided us through many exotic sonic landscapes with an ever escalating expression. G.L. "G-Mane" Moon in Houston is always lending his talented techniques with us to bust a move to a higher groove as well.”
Ray Shasho: Billy, anything you’d like to promote?
Billy Gibbons: “Hot sauce and barbecue sauce. There's never enough…!”
Ray Shasho: I heard you’re quite a chef … what’s your specialty?
Billy Gibbons: “Mexican cuisine. Guacamole, certainly, which is a staple compliment to the vast variations found in the many different regions of the country. Fiery spices make for fierce foods and that, my friend, is a good thing…!”
Ray Shasho: Billy, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule today. More importantly for all the incredible ZZ Top music you’ve given us and continue to bring into the future. We’ll see you in Florida December 27th and 29th.
Billy Gibbons: “Thanks Ray, we’ll see you then!”

Purchase ZZ Top’s most recent release entitled La Futura at
Visit the ZZ Top official website at
ZZ Top on tour
ZZ Top on Facebook
ZZ Top Myspace
ZZ Top on Twitter

Very special thanks to Bob Merlis

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at

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“Check the Gs is just a really cool story ... and it’s real. I’d like to see the kid on the front cover telling his story in a motion picture, TV sitcom or animated series. The characters in the story definitely jump out of the book and come to life. Very funny and scary moments throughout the story and I just love the way Ray timeline’s historical events during his lifetime. Ray’s love of rock music was evident throughout the book and it generates extra enthusiasm when I read his on-line classic rock music column on It’s a wonderful read for everyone!”

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Exclusive Interview: Norman Greenbaum reveals the true origin of “Spirit In The Sky”

 By Ray Shasho

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’up to the spirit in the sky

Norman Greenbaum is considered by many music experts to be a one-hit wonder.  But when the lyrics to that particular hit meant so much to so many and with eternal impact… then who cares?
Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky” echoed an inspirational message of optimism for hope of an afterlife. The song reached #3 on the Billboard charts and sold two million singles by 1970, and during an important transitional period in music that witnessed Album-Oriented Rock formats overshadowing Top 40 singles on the airwaves.
Greenbaum created one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock and roll history using an industrial fuzz tone. Released in 1969, “Sprit In The Sky” has stood the test of time. Greenbaum states, “Motorists actually still pull over to the side of the road when they hear the song being played on the radio.” And the song continues to be a heavily requested tune at funerals.
 Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Spirit In The Sky,” #341 on the list of top ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time.’ Countless musicians have mimicked their version of the celestial composition including Elton John, DC Talk, Darrel Mansfield, The Stovall Sisters (The back-up singers on the original recording), Doctor and the Medics, Nina Hagen, and Norman’s favorite cover version, The Kentucky Headhunters

“Spirit In The Sky” has been featured in countless movies, TV series and commercials. The song has also been spotlighted on the 2008 music video game- Rock Band 2, enlightening a whole new generation of “Spirit” advocates.

Norman Greenbaum began a music career as a member of Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band. Their sole hit was, “The Eggplant that Ate Chicago” (#52 on Billboard’s top 100) in 1966. Greenbaum departed the band and began a solo career under the direction of producer Erik Jacobsen (Lovin’ Spoonful, Sopwith Camel, Chris Issak).
Raised of the Jewish faith, Greenbaum states that there wasn’t much resentment from the Jewish Community over his Christian-like lyrics, especially his reference to Jesus. The only true criticism came from the Christian side who were not very pleased with his lyric… “Never been a sinner I never sinned.” Greenbaum says, “I just didn’t know better at the time.”

Today Norman Greenbaum is 69 years old and lives in Northern California. His 1969 metaphysical one- hit wonder continues to be adored and emulated by countless fans. Most recently Peter Frampton covered, “Spirit In The Sky” on William Shatner’s latest album, Seeking Major Tom.
Norman enjoys sponsoring races at the local fair. He says, “All it consists of is getting around thirty friends together, having a party, and getting your picture taken with the winning racehorse.” He’s also won a bunch of blue ribbons entering various works.

Here’s my interview with Songwriter/Vocalist/Guitarist/Rock and Roll Icon/ and a very amusing and hip guy… Norman Greenbaum. (We had to reschedule the original interview date because Mr. Greenbaum was feeling a bit under the weather).
Ray: Hello Norman, are you feeling better?
Norman: “I’m feeling better; I had some kind of an on and off flu. When you get older you don’t shake it so quick.  I got a flu shot and the thing hurt like hell. I mean, I always get one but it doesn’t matter because I still get sick a couple of times… can’t cover everything. But this year it hurt! And I got it at a doctor’s office, so if they don’t know how to give one than no one does.”
Ray: Norman, do you still compose and play music?
Norman: “I’m always trying to compose. It’s kind of interesting these days because music has changed so much. Actually, I was sitting here thinking to myself, the production values have just gone way off in an odd direction, not exactly disco but certainly heavy dance music, and these repeating phrases, and I wonder if I could write a song like that.”
“But I’ve been doing a few gigs here and there just as a guest artist and it may lead to something for next spring, hopefully, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Ray : The airwaves have really changed over the years but I can still tune in somewhere on the dial  and catch, “Spirit In The Sky” from time to time.
Norman:“I take great pride in the fact that… on my website, I get emails all the time, people will write to me and say, “I still listen to the oldies stations and they play your song and I still have to pull over  because it’s just too powerful.”” 
Ray: Anytime I hear “Spirit In The Sky” being played it always sounds so fresh, like an unexpected surprise. And the staying power since it was first released in 1969 is amazing.
Norman: “It totally amazed me, I was happy to have made it. It was a risk, I almost didn’t make it, then it made it, and then it went away. Years later it got recorded by a couple of other people and became number (1) two more times in England. Then it took on a life in movies, TV, commercials, and heavy duty play on radio. I’ve talked to deejays that say we don’t play it anymore and people get mad.”
Ray: Who would have thought that “Spirit in The Sky” would be written and performed by someone of the Jewish faith?  
Norman:“Yea, but I’m a writer and I’ve always thought I can write about anything I want to write about. I was into all kinds of music from jug band music to country music. I was taken by Porter Wagoner, he’d wear these snazzy coats that he’d got from Nudie’s in North Hollywood and had a big pompadour. And he was kind of interesting. He had a show on TV and I’d watch it. One day he’s singing this song about a preacher and I said, “Wow that’s a little out of my league to write about preachers and stuff, but I can do it.” And that’s what I did. But it had nothing to do about having a religious background. Many people thought I was tongue- in- cheek and making fun by saying, “Never been a Sinner” but basically I didn’t know any better. I just did it at the top of my head and put music to it that was unbelievable when you think of a spiritual type of song and it was very risky. But as it developed, the producer and I both knew we had something.”
Ray: The song still sounds so clear and crisp even today. 
Norman:We specifically mixed it on small speakers so it would sound good in a car. We were smart enough to know that and I remember having the conversation with Eric the producer saying, “It’s got to sound good in the car.” People drive and they listen to the radio…back then. There were no cell phones you had to stop and make a call, life was way different. The radio in your car was IT! Wherever you went the first thing you did was started your car and then turn on your radio. That was it (one and two) three didn’t matter.”
Ray: You were originally from Massachusetts and then actually came to Los Angeles to start a band?
Norman: “I moved to the San Francisco area from LA and actually started in Boston.I started my first band Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band in LA and did that for a few years. Then I didn’t want to do it anymore and wanted to become a solo artist. So I put bands together until one finally clicked and we were playing at the Troubadour and Eric Jacobsen who had produced the Lovin’ Spoonful happened to walk in. He heard me and then came backstage and said, “I’d like to sign you.” Just like that! He said, “I don’t want the band, move up to the Bay Area and let’s write songs and produce something, see what we can do.” And so that’s where “Spirit” got born.”
“If you ask me what I based “Spirit In The Sky” on… What did we grow up watching?  …Westerns!  These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on.”
Ray: So that was the trigger that got you to write the song?
Norman:Yes. The song itself was simple, when you’re writing a song you keep it simple of course. It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise it was just a simple song. I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky. Funny enough… I wanted to die with my boots on.”
Ray: Being Jewish, did you receive any flack from the Jewish community?
Norman: “I think at first it was a little hard to conceive but it seems to have gone away. I still get strange letters from heavy Christians that find it appalling that I said, “Never been a sinner I never sinned” and I’m truthful in writing back. I say… “You know, I flubbed that part. So what are you going to do?””
Ray: You told me earlier that you were divorced and living alone, do you have children Norman?
Norman:“I have two. They’re around the age of forty, my son lives in Alaska and my daughter lives close here. And I am a Grandfather.”
Ray:  I’ve got to ask, I always wondered about the similarities of ZZ Top’s, “La Grange” guitar riff compared to, “Spirit In The Sky.” Do you think that was just a coincidence?
Norman:“It’s interesting when you pull apart those beats between Canned Heat (“On the Road Again”), me, and ZZ Top, they’re very similar yet it’s different enough to be different. I think we all just ripped off the old guys from the 1920’s who laid down this beat. If you go back and listen to all the black music from the 20’s you’ll probably recognize all of rock and roll. We all have our influences and there are just so many notes. But again, if you listen to, “Spirit In The Sky” there are notes in there that are way different and to the ordinary ear it may sound alike.”
Ray:  Do you think that your song may have been a precursor for “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Godspell?”
Norman:  “I don’t think so. I think just the hippie thing, the love thing, and the flower children were spiritual, so… I don’t know.”
Ray: But you contributed religion and Jesus into the spiritual mix.
Norman:“I brought the heavy industrial fuzz box into it. (All laughing) That’s what I did. I loved it when someone coined that phrase.”
 Ray: Who were some of the bands that you toured with after, “Spirit In The Sky” was released?
Norman: “I don’t think we toured with one band, we just showed up. We opened for the Doors, The Moody Blues, and played the same gigs with Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Mayall, and we got to headline a little too.”
Ray: Did you get to hang with Jim Morrison?
Norman: “No, he was not available to hang with a Norman Greenbaum. (Laughing) And I didn’t care because the gig was in Hawaii, I just wanted to play and go lay on the beach.”
Ray: Norman, do you have a good road story that I can share with my readers?
Norman: “We were playing in Atlanta and opening up for Delaney and Bonnie. The gig was at this rather old Hall and Delaney and Bonnie had done their soundcheck and there were sparks flying, so they hiked and refused to play because the wiring was faulty. So the whole gig was going to be cancelled but I said, “Oh, we’ll play” and sparks did fly, the wiring was faulty and we had to be very careful not to electrocute ourselves.”
Ray: Man, you could have been easily electrocuted and really had become the, “Spirit in The Sky.”
Norman:  “Wouldn’t that have been ironic.”  Here’s another road story… we did a gig at the Whiskey a Go Go and then we drove up to San Luis Obispo in California to play a club there where we played regularly. When we got there I didn’t feel good and felt like I had a fever, so I asked the drummer to take me to the emergency room because something was definitely wrong. When I got there they wouldn’t let me in, not because I had long hair but because I had the measles. They said, “We can’t let you in here” and I said, “I’ve got insurance.” They said, “You have a communicable disease…you have the measles.” So somewhere in LA I got the measles visiting peoples families.”
“So I had to go back to the motel and lay low for a few days with a fever and the measles. Then there’s this knock on my door and I said, “Who’s that?” And the voice said, “It’s Ted Nugent,” I said, “Ted Nugent? You can come in my room but I’ve got the measles.” He said, “No problem I’ve had the measles.” I said, “What are you doing in San Luis Obispo?” He says, “I’m just passing through.”
“Now here’s the story here… I don’t know if it was an illusion, a delusion, a dream, or if he actually knocked on my door. I’ve never met him and was never able to find out. I pretty much think it was a dream… I had a fever! So it was kind of funny. (All laughing)”
Ray: Well, if Ted Nugent is reading this article; Ted, have you ever visited Norman Greenbaum at his motel room in San Luis Obispo, California when Norman had the measles?
A lot of bands covered, “Spirit In The Sky.” I really liked, The Stovall Sisters version.
Norman: “They did a pretty good version in fact I’m doing a guest appearance in February, locally here, and they’re going to be there also backing me up again, probably the first time in… ever. They were on the original and sang background for me on a number of songs. They live in Oakland and we occasionally speak. So I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ray: I also noticed covers by Darrel Mansfield, DC Talk, and Elton John did a decent cover version of the tune.
Norman:Well, it was also covered by The Blind Boys of Alabama, and of course there was Doctor and the Medics and Gareth Gates, and those were the two that became huge hits again all over Europe…huge hits!”
Ray: Who played your favorite cover of “Spirit In The Sky?”
Norman: “I think I like the one by The Kentucky Headhunters the best, although The Blind Boys of Alabama is an interesting track because Charlie Musselwhite played harmonica and I think the guitar player was from Los Lobos.”
 “I got an email from Porter Wagoner’s daughter years after, they’d never known about my story because we totally travelled on different circles, and she said, “It just came to my attention that when you did a couple of interviews that you mentioned my dad being an influence on you. He would have liked to have met you.” I thought to myself, wouldn’t that have been a cool thing. But we did exchange hats…she has a “Spirit In The Sky” hat and I have a Porter Wagoner hat.”
Ray: Wouldn’t it have been cool if he had done a cover of the song?”
Norman:  “Yea, wish for something too late, huh?”
“But I do think it’s time someone else does another cover of the song, so put out the word. (Laughing)”
Ray: Norman, thank you so much for being on the call today. I’ve got a good feeling that “Spirit In The Sky” will continue to be played on the airwaves for years to come. And younger generations will soon be rediscovering a truly classic song.  Norman, if you’re ever in Florida look me up.
Norman: I sure will Ray, so long.

Norman Greenbaum official website
“Spirit In The Sky” Film and TV credits
I want to thank Billy James of Glass Onyon Publicity for arranging this interview.
Official website

*This article is dedicated to a very dear friend who passed away this month and is now a “Spirit In The Sky.” Jerry Gerard and I attended broadcasting school together back in the late 70’s in Ft Lauderdale, Fl. I’ve always considered myself a music aficionado, but Jerry took it to another level. He started his radio career at WCCF in Punta Gorda, Fl. His illustrious radio career included working at WCEZ/West Palm Beach, WINZ/Miami, WSVN-TV/Miami, WMBM/Miami Beach, WRRX/97X Gainesville, Fl, WRVG/Georgetown, Kentucky, WUIN/Wilmington, NC and WNRN/Charlottesville, VA.
Jerry's persistence and insistence to carry on a successful broadcasting career was truly commendable. And his love and passion for the music helped him endure. Jerry Gerard was a warm and sincere friend and I will miss him very much.
I love you man.

Contact Ray Shasho at

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