Showing posts with label Sweat and Tears. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sweat and Tears. Show all posts

Sunday, June 7, 2015

David Clayton-Thomas Interview: ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’ Legendary Singer Scores With New Releases

-Interviewed on March 18th 2015

By Ray Shasho

David Clayton-Thomas inherited his musical savvy by performing in clubs on Toronto’s infamous Yonge Street back in the early 60’s, a music scene that had also launched the careers of fellow Canadians Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young to name just a few. Rockabilly musician Ronnie Hawkins referred to Yonge Street as “The Promise Land.” Toronto was without racial barriers and became a Mecca for R&B artists, which also gave them the opportunity to perform for the first time to white audiences. At a young age, David became heavily influenced by those rhythm and blues artists who performed regularly in Toronto, which led to David Clayton-
Thomas becoming one of the most recognized blue-eyed soul singers in the world.

But it would be David’s earliest roots, his passion for Mississippi Delta Blues that helped him move to New York and launch a brilliant career with the finest musicians. While playing in little clubs in Toronto, blues legend John Lee Hooker frequently performed, and David would grab his guitar in between sets and go over and sit in with him. Thomas eventually ended up playing with Hooker in New York and continued to live there for the next forty years.

DAVID CLAYTON-THOMAS joined Blood, Sweat & Tears in the summer of 1968. The band was originally formed by Al Kooper and named after Johnny Cash's 1963 album Blood, Sweat and Tears. Kooper left the group but not before writing the B, S &T early classic “I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know.”  Kooper played on hundreds of records, including The Rolling Stones, B. B. King, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. He discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums

Folk singer Judy Collins heard David Clayton-Thomas one night at a club uptown and told her friend, drummer Bobby Colomby about him. Bobby invited David to help rebuild his shattered band and saying … “We never heard anyone sing like that!” They took the reformed group into the Café Au Go Go in the Village. Six weeks later, there were lines of people around the block, waiting to get into a club which only seated about 200 people.

David Clayton-Thomas’ debut album with the band was simply entitled … Blood, Sweat & Tearsand became their most successful album to date, spawning three successive Top 5 hits in 1969 …a cover of Berry Gordy & Brenda Holloway’s “You've Made Me So Very Happy,”  the David Clayton-Thomas penned “Spinning Wheel,” and their version of Laura Nyro's “And When I Die.” All three singles reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. "Spinning Wheel" reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album sold more than 10-million copies worldwide.
In 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears won an unprecedented (5) Grammy awards including …
Album of the Year … Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist … and … Best Contemporary Instrumental Performance.
 BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS immediate commercial success was attributed to a brand new sound on the music scene, performed by eight prodigious musicians that incorporated shades of rock, blues, pop, rhythm & blues and psychedelic genres with horn arrangements and jazz improvisation, whileDavid Clayton-Thomas’ soulful renditions amazingly blended meticulously with the horn section. The band’s critically-acclaim recognition led to their day three appearance at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969.

The band’s subsequent albums …Blood, Sweat & Tears 3(1970) and Blood, Sweat & Tears 4 (1971) were well- received and commercially successful. Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 spawned the Top 40 hits … “Lucretia MacEvil” penned by David-Clayton Thomas and the Carole King cover tune “Hi-De-Ho.” Blood, Sweat & Tears 4 generated the Top 40 single “Go Down Gamblin’” written by Clayton-Thomas.

David Clayton-Thomas left the group to pursue a solo career after their next album entitled …New Blood. (1972) Jerry Fisher replaced Clayton-Thomas on vocals.

Clayton-Thomas returned to Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1975 and recorded the New City album

Subsequent Blood, Sweat & Tears albums featuring David Clayton-Thomas on lead vocals …More Than Ever (1976), Brand New Day (1977), Nuclear Blues (1980)

David, Clayton- Thomas has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.

In 1996, David was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

In 2007, his jazz/rock composition “Spinning Wheel” was enshrined in the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame.

In 2010, David received his star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

In 2011, Author David Clayton-Thomas released his memoir Blood, Sweat & Tears: A brutally truthful memoir, Clayton-Thomas reveals what it was like to headline at Woodstock, to tour behind the Iron Curtain, to watch brilliant musicians tear their own band apart with in-fighting, and to make his fortune only to lose it all ... and start over again. This is a story of grit, courage, and determination. It is, above all, a story of survival. -Available to purchase now

Today, David Clayton-Thomas is as busy as ever … his three recent releases … Soul Ballads,Combo (An album of classic standards) and A Blues for the New World … (3) separate genres performed by the musical genius of David Clayton-Thomas is available now at
-I gave Soul Ballads by David Clayton-Thomas (5) Stars!

I had the rare pleasure of chatting with David Clayton-Thomas recently about the Soul Ballads album, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The inception of “Spinning Wheel,” The current state of the music industry, My infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ wish question and much-much more!

Here’s my interview with the award-winning, legendary singer & songwriter of Blood, Sweat & Tears DAVID CLAYTON-THOMAS.

Ray Shasho: David thank for being on the call today!
David Clayton-Thomas: “It’s good to be with you Ray.”
Ray Shasho: It’s funny, I chatted with Al Kooper back in September of 2014, and the very first thing he said to me when he answered the phone was … Have you just been talking with David Clayton-Thomas? … I swear, true story!
David Clayton-Thomas:  “The strange thing is that Al Kooper and I really don’t know each other. He was gone from the band when I joined and we went out on the road and were on different paths. I think he lives down in Nashville now. When we met it was very quickly and casually backstage once or twice. So I really don’t know Al.”
Ray Shasho: David, I really enjoyed listening to Soul Ballads.
David Clayton-Thomas:  “Thank you very much, we put a lot of love and care into it, and a lot of trepidation too, those are very hard songs to follow, when you’re doing a song by Ray Charles or Otis Redding, you’d better bring your ‘A’ game because those records were done beautifully.”
Ray Shasho: A track off Soul Ballads which I thought may have been particularly difficult to sing is “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
David Clayton-Thomas: “I idolized Gladys Knight, and that was one of the first tunes that I picked for the album. I thought …I’ve got to do that song.”
Ray Shasho:  I haven’t really heard many artists cover that song; I think Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin may have done it?
David Clayton-Thomas: “Gladys is a tough act to follow; there are artists who put their stamp on a certain song and nobody wants to even touch it … Ray Charles, “Georgia on my Mind” …that song has been done, unless you can do it any better, but who can do it better than Ray Charles?”
Ray Shasho: David, you also did an excellent version of “People Get Ready,” an R&B classic penned by Cutis Mayfield when he was with The Impressions.
David Clayton-Thomas: “Those songs are old friends for me, I grew up singing R&B here on Yonge Street and those were our repertoire. My old piano player Lou Pomanti who was with me with Blood, Sweat & Tears for about five years, and now he’s a big producer around here, he’d just got finished writing all the arrangements for the Michael Bublé album and he prevailed on me one more time, he said, “Come on man, we’ve got to do an album with those songs!” The hardest part was figuring out which of those songs worked, because once we started coming up with ideas, we sat there with about thirty five songs and only ten could go on an album. So the hardest part was what we weren’t going to do. I’ve got to say; those songs came very-very easy to me because I sang them five shows a night, six nights a week for years. That was my repertoire when I first started out; I idolized all of those artists, so I don’t think there is a song on the album that I haven’t sung about a dozen times before. You know it’s funny; I didn’t even take lyric sheets to the studio because I knew the songs so well. But you know everyone can sing those songs … (“Sittin’On) the Dock of the Bay” … everyone can sing that.”
Ray Shasho: Track eleven on Soul Ballads, “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” by the great Smokey Robinson, had a sort of jazzy spin to it?
David Clayton-Thomas: “When we started looking back at these songs and listening to the original recordings, we were pretty amazed how badly they were recorded. But it didn’t matter because the soul came through. Remember, they were probably recorded on a little four track machine, they weren’t the greatest musicians in the world, I know on the Bobby Hebb tune “Sunny” the horns were so out of tune that it made my teeth hurt. But it didn’t matter. We have the advantage now of using a 21st century recording studio with digital editing and hundreds and hundreds of tracks if we wanted, and really top notch musicians. It was quite a labor of love making that record and I’m so glad it’s coming out in the states now.”
Ray Shasho: Soul Ballads featured an incredible array of musicians … 
David Clayton-Thomas: My buddies from up here in Toronto, half the guys in the rhythm section and horns of that band play in my regular band. We’ve got some really good talent up here in Canada.”
Ray Shasho: Besides you … I’ve interviewed many Canadian music legends …Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Frank Marino, Gino Vannelli and the list goes on …but Canada has produced so many great comedians and actors as well.
David Clayton-Thomas: “If you go to Hollywood in LA there’s a whole Canadian community out there, Mike Myers and that whole gang, especially in theater and comedy … Jim Carrey, it’s just a whole enclave of Canadians in LA. Belushi and the Aykroyd Boys all came from Chicago, but The Firesign Theatre and Second City Television was really up here in Toronto, and that’s what really formed the very first Saturday Night Live. The Producer Lorne Michaels is a Canadian and when he first started he brought everybody down from Toronto to start that show.”
Ray Shasho: You had a close relationship with John Lee Hooker in those early days.
David Clayton-Thomas: “It was John who basically brought me to New York the first time. My earliest roots were Mississippi Delta Blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson … and the blues were my entrance into music. Playing in little clubs here in Toronto, John Lee Hooker used to come up here and play all the time, so I would grab my guitar in between sets and go over and sit in with him. It ended up me going to New York and playing with him. I ended up living there for forty years.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve written a memoir entitled … Blood, Sweat & Tears?
David Clayton-Thomas: “The book and the Soul Ballads album were kind of tied together, because while the book was coming out in October of 2010, it was also announced that I was getting my star in the Canadian Hall of Fame. So I had pressure coming to me from the book publisher and from the record company who said, you’ve got to get a new album out because you’ve got all this stuff going on in the fall. I had just finished the book and I’ve got to tell you…I was pretty much written out! It takes a year and a half to two years to write a book, and during that time you’re not writing many songs. Writing a book for me was kind of a one-time thing, I just wanted to put a postscript on all of those Blood, Sweat & Tears years and wrapped it up and tie a bow on it, and say here’s what happened and here’s how it was … and move on.”

“But like I said, I was getting pressure from both sides to get a new album out and that’s when I called Lou Pomanti, I said, you know you’ve been bugging me for years to do this album, I think the time is right. I don’t have any original material ready to go and we need an album three months from now. I said can we do it? He said, sure we can!”
Ray Shasho: David, what year did you join Blood, Sweat & Tears?
David Clayton-Thomas: “In the summer of 1968. We recorded the album over the course of that summer, it was released in October and by Christmas it was the number one album in the world.”
Ray Shasho: The album was a huge commercial success and spawned (3) consecutive Top 5 singles. It also won a Grammy Award for ‘Album of the Year.’ How did a newly reconstructed Blood, Sweat & Tears achieve commercial success right out of the gate?
David Clayton-Thomas: “We had the top musicians in New York, who weren’t generally known to the public, but these were the ‘A’ team guys … Bobby Colomby, Randy Brecker… these are great-great musicians! But I think the musical climate was different then. Today it seems that everybody wants to put out records to please the marketing guys and it sounds like everything else on the radio. In the 60’s it was a different philosophy, we came into an era that was mostly big power rock bands like Hendrix, The Who, Cream … and we came out of left field with Julliard graduates playing trombones, trumpets and flutes with Basie-Ellington types of arrangements and very much a New York City band. We succeeded so quickly because it was so different, there was nothing like it out there. And in those days was a bonus. Blood, Sweat & Tears were serious musicians and all of a sudden they were playing to 22,000 screaming people at Madison Square Garden. It was a great band and had a great run. I’m very proud of it.”

“Today, I think doing something completely different is almost career suicide. The Record industry is another oxymoron along with jumbo shrimp, it’s pretty much gone. When was the last time you saw a record store? It’s been going for the last several years and I watched it go, and in some ways I’m kind of glad. Remember when the old studio system dissolved in Hollywood and all of these wonderful independent films came out. They weren’t governed by the big corporate bureaucracies. In some ways, the artist has been under the thumb of the record company or the whim of the record company for so many years. I’ve talked with some of the early guys who invented rock and roll like Chuck Berry …Little Richard …Fats Domino …and these guys signed lifetime record contracts for a new Cadillac and never saw a royalty check ever. I think that the new internet freedom that we have now … we only communicate with record companies that can communicate in 21st century language, like CD Baby, Spotify and iTunes, because that’s where people are going for their music now. The only places left for selling CD’S are like Walmart, Costco or something, and they only sell the Top 10… you’ll get your Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, but there’s hardly any new music coming into that. So it’s left the artist to do what he knows best and that’s create and go directly to his fans, and you can do that all over the internet.”
Ray Shasho: “Are companies like Spotify paying royalties to the artists like they should?
David Clayton-Thomas: “Its took us a hundred years to build up a system of copyright  to protect music and then the internet came along and they just threw it out the window, there was no real laws to govern it. It is happening; unfortunately the laws move a lot slower than the technology. But we’re working on it … it will all come around. The record industry may be in deep dookie but the music business is doing just fine. In fact, I think it’s doing better than ever because of the creativity.”
Ray Shasho: I’d like to talk about your classic hit with Blood, Sweat & Tears … “Spinning Wheel” (1969) … I chatted with Engelbert Humperdinck before our interview and Engelbert  recently recorded “Spinning Wheel” for his latest duets album called … Engelbert Calling.
David Clayton-Thomas: “Yea, he did it with Gene Simmons. I go way back with Engelbert; I’ve known him for quite some time and have a lot of friends in common in Germany. I’ve done a lot of work in Germany over the years and have a lot of mutual friends over there. But when somebody called me up and said I just heard “Spinning Wheel” by Gene Simmons … I go are you kidding? (All laughing) Kiss is doing “Spinning Wheel?” I don’t believe it!”
Ray Shasho: “Talk about the inception of “Spinning Wheel” … when we think of the 60’s, I think most people would say “Spinning Wheel” is in the top of their list. 
David Clayton-Thomas: “Yea and it was played at Woodstock and released that same year in 1969, so it’s kind of engrained in a lot of people’s memory. This is a song that I wrote up here in Canada two years before I joined Blood, Sweat & Tears and tried to get it recorded. I did a demo of it, but tried to do a real record of it and was turned down by every record company in the country. They said, what is this … it sounds like jazz …we can’t sell jazz! So that was the prevailing wisdom back then. Then I came down and found the right combination of musicians and recorded it in New York and the rest is history as they say.
Record executives follow trends … Artists set trends. That’s the way it’s always been, especially now that the industry is running out of money and basically going broke, and a lot of the talent has left. When is the last time you saw an A&R man at a record company? That post doesn’t exist anymore. Record companies are basically distributorships now. They could be selling toothpaste or hand soap …they’re just units to be moved and not really a connection with the music. That’s why a lot of artists, even senior artists like myself are moving away from the record industry. Except for Nashville, the days when a record company used to make or break an artist are over.”
Ray Shasho: Groups like Blood, Sweat & Tears & Chicago were pleasantly dissimilar when they arrived on the music scene … a prodigious ensemble performing a phenomenal blend of rock, jazz and psychedelic music.
David Clayton-Thomas: “What happens in the record industry … as soon as something comes along that’s different, within a year they’ve cloned it half a dozen times. The same producer that produced the first Blood, Sweat & Tears record with me … we went on the road to promote it, and while we went on the road he produced three Chicago albums. (All laughing) And then everybody had to have a horn band in those days. By the year Blood, Sweat & Tears broke … you had Tower of Power, Chicago, Ides of March, Chase … there was horn bands coming out of the woodwork.”
Ray Shasho: Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention were also early innovators for using horns in a rock band.
David Clayton-Thomas: “Well yea … as a matter of fact I had lunch the day before yesterday with a gentleman by the name of Jim Fielder. Jim was the original bass player in Blood, Sweat & Tears and he has been with Neil Sedaka for the last thirty years. When I first met Jim Fielder he was the bass player for The Mothers of Invention with Aynsley Dunbar and Frank Zappa …playing at the Garrick Theatre in New York City, next door to the Café Au Go Go where Blood, Sweat & Tears played. So Jim came over to Blood, Sweat & Tears. There’s a picture on my website of me and Frank Zappa jamming away on guitars … just a tremendously creative guy.”
Ray Shasho: Dave, are you going to hit the road again anytime soon?
David Clayton-Thomas:  “Not really on the road, my days of being on the road are over. I am coming down to the states and doing some concerts this year. I like to pick events. Last year I came down and did the St. Louis Blues Festival and did the Toronto Jazz Festival here with Earth, Wind & Fire and Chaka Khan, and two nights at Massey Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, but that’s not being on the road, that’s doing things you really want to do. Being on the road is when you go out for 150 days at a time and half the gigs are to pay for gas …that’s being on the road. (All laughing) I did that for 40 years and I won’t do that anymore. The record company that put out Soul Ballads also books a lot of concerts and they’ve already asked me if I’d come down and do a few spots this year, and I’d love to do that.”
Ray Shasho: Do you enjoy performing with a live symphony orchestra?
David Clayton-Thomas:  “It’s one thing I do. The new album that I just finished is called Combo. It’s a small quintet and we play all acoustic, it’s a very unplugged and very intimate kind of album. It’s really great to sing in that kind of environment. On the other hand when you’re playing with a symphony orchestra and you hear 80 pieces strike up the opening to “God Bless the Child,” you wouldn’t be human if your hair didn’t stand up in back of your head. (All laughing)  The last few years I’ve been doing concerts with a 10-piece band, Blood, Sweat & Tears was only eight pieces. So this year we’ll cut it back a little because of the new album and play more intimate concerts. Of all the places I’ve played  … from Carnegie Hall to Royal Albert Hall to Madison Square Garden … my favorite place is still an 800 to 1000 seat performing arts center. Where the people are sitting in nice plush seats and relaxed and you have a beautiful stage with nice production, great lights, and the audience is three feet away, you can reach out and touch them. That’s my favorite place to play.”
Ray Shasho:  Producer/songwriter/musician James William Guercio produced your classic debut album with Blood, Sweat & Tears; he also worked with The Buckinghams, Chicago and Beach Boys to name a few. He was obviously a successful producer, why didn’t he work with the band again after that first album?  
David Clayton-Thomas: “The makeup of Blood, Sweat & Tears, except for the songwriters, everybody made 100% of their living by going on the road, and that included the agents, promoters and people in our front office. We went from being basically a Greenwich Village street band making five hundred bucks a night split nine ways, to all of a sudden, tens of thousands of dollars a night pouring in. So Blood, Sweat & Tears basically went on the road for three years until finally our manager called a halt to it and said, look, you guys have been out there for three years, while your all out there touring all over the world and making tons of money, Jimmy Guercio has made three Chicago albums in that time. (All laughing) So we decided that we needed to get more products in the can and make some more albums. So we went in and recorded B, S &T 3 and B, S &T 4 in basically consecutive years. If you notice between the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album and second B, S &T album, there is a three year gap. We were in Australia, South America, Russia … you name it and we were there.”
Ray Shasho: Dave you’ve written several great tunes with the band, any regrets for not having written more songs?
David Clayton-Thomas: “Not particularly …I’m not a singer who only sings his own songs; I’m not a Bob Dylan, I write a few songs that happen to fit me. I enjoy just as much doing Soul Ballads and singing those great iconic Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes songs. I’m first a singer and a songwriter second.”

“The Toronto music scene is heavily R&B oriented and the reason for that being is, back in the 60’s when we young Canadian musicians were growing up, and I’m talking about people like Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell … there was a color bar in the states, if you were a black band and worked in Detroit you worked black clubs. They wouldn’t even allow mixed bands, you couldn’t even have a white guy in your band or a white band couldn’t have a black guy in it. What happened was because of our proximity to all those great towns, all those great R&B artists from Chicago and Detroit came up to Canada. There was no color bar up here. Up here they played in all the finest clubs and were idolized. Those great R&B artists loved to go to England and to Canada because there was no racism here. The first time I heard Eric Clapton, I said this guy has been listening to Chicago Blues … well of course; all the black artists would go over and play in England and would develop a huge following there, everyone from The Beatles to the Stones were heavily influenced by the Black American artists.”
Ray Shasho: David, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
David Clayton-Thomas: “I’ve been very lucky because I’ve already collaborated with everyone who I’d want to collaborate with … I would have loved to sit down and sing with Ray Charles, I did get to sing with Aretha Franklin on a number of different occasions and she’s another one of my idols. There are a few young bands … I saw a Bruno Mars show a couple of months ago and he kicks ass … that’s a serious old school R&B artist.”
Ray Shasho: David, thank you so much for being on the call today and for all the incredible music you’ve given us with Blood, Sweat & Tears and all the great music you continue to bring!
David Clayton-Thomas: “It’s been a pleasure talking with you Ray.”

Very special thanks to Anne Leighton PR *Media * Music Services * Motivation

Purchase David Clayton-Thomas’ latest releases … Soul Ballads, Combo and A Blues for the New World … (3) separate genres performed by the musical genius of David Clayton-Thomas, available  now at
Soul Ballads …                                                      
Track List
Midnight Train To Georgia
A Change Is Gonna Come
People Get Ready
If You Don`t Know Me By Now
I`ve Been Lovin` You Too Long
Dock Of The Bay
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
You Don`t Know Me
You Really Got A Hold On Me
When A Man Loves A Woman

 Combo …
Track List
As Time Goes By
Nature Boy
Stormy Monday Blues
The Glory Of Love
Freedom for the Stallion
God Bless the Child
September Song
When I Fall In Love

Purchase Author David Clayton-Thomas’ memoir … 
Blood, Sweat & Tears at

COMING UP … An interview with vocalist/author JOE BONSALL
of the legendary … ‘OAK RIDGE BOYS’ and guitar legend/singer/producer …
DAVE EDMUNDS (Rockpile).

Contact music journalist/author Ray Shasho at

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Al Kooper Interview: ‘Super Session’ Remastered & Kooper Uncovers New Music with Column

By Ray Shasho
-Interviewed July 2nd 2014

Singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist AL KOOPER continues to relish an incredible life of music. Although these days it’s mostly through his weekly online column for The Morton Report entitled ‘New Music for Old People’
Kooper reveals…
“This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadays. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD be!”

Kooper is also excited about the re-release of the classic ‘Super Session’ album featuring Al Kooper-Mike Bloomfield-Stephen Stills. The album is re-mastered with the latest (Hybrid Multichannel SACD) technology. The package includes new liner notes written by Al Kooper that tells the story of the Super Session album and the new 5.1 Multichannel mix. The 5.1 mix by Al Kooper with mastering by Bob Ludwig was never released and yet it has acquired some fame from industry insiders familiar with the Multichannel mix with comments like "excellent" and "it deserves to be heard."The new mastering of the Stereo tracks for new SACD Stereo and CD Stereo audio are by mastering engineer Steve Hoffman. -The official release of ‘Super Session’ on is -September 9th.

AL KOOPER: had a life changing undertaking technologically and musically after receiving a Webcor reel to reel tape recorder as a Bat Mitzvah gift in 1957.Born in Brooklyn and growing up in Queens, New York … Kooper began his incredible music career as a fourteen year old guitarist with The Royal Teens (“Short Shorts” #3 U.S. Hit in 1958).

In 1960, Kooper joined the songwriting team of Bob Brass and Irwin Levine and wrote “This Diamond Ring” (#1 U.S. Hit in 1965) for Gary Lewis & the Playboys. At 21, Kooper moved to Greenwich Village and began a momentous relationship with Bob Dylan. He performed and recorded with Dylan including adding his classic Hammond organ riffs on “Like a Rolling Stone”(#2 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Hit in 1965). During those recording sessions, Kooper met Michael Bloomfield.

In 1967, Al Kooper joined The Blues Project as their keyboardist. He left the band before the group was to appear at the infamous Monterey Pop Festival, and instead, along with bandmate Steve Katz, formed the jazz/rock/psychedelic/ R&B/ group …Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Kooper left Blood, Sweat & Tears after their critically-acclaimed debut release … ‘Child Is Father to the Man’ (1968). The album spawned the classic rock mainstays … “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (Penned by Kooper) and “I Can’t Quit Her” (Written by Kooper/Levine).

Al Kooper recorded a jazz inspired jam entitled ‘Super Session’ in 1968 with Michael Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. The album spawned an incredible cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” and my favorite track “His Holy Modal Majesty” (Written by Kooper and Bloomfield). The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold.
It was Al Kooper who called Judy Collins in the middle of the night and put Joni Mitchell on the phone to sing “Both Sides Now” which eventually became a huge hit for Collins in 1968.
Throughout the years …Kooper became a mainstay in the recording studio performing with The Rolling Stones, The Who, B.B. King, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Alice Cooper, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joe Cocker, Tom Petty, and Roger McGuinn to name just a few.
Kooper discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972 after watching several of their appearances at a frequented club in Atlanta. Al moved to Atlanta and signed the band to his new record label ‘Sounds of the South.’ (He would eventually sell the label to MCA Records). Al Kooper produced and performed on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first (3) albums…  (‘Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, Second Helping, and Nuthin’Fancy). Also on the singles “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird,” and “Saturday Night Special.”

Al Kooper produced The Tubes, David Essex, Nils Lofgren, Rick Nelson, Ray Charles, The Staple Singers, Bob Dylan, and Lynyrd Skynyrd … to name just a few. He also played and arranged three tracks on George Harrison’s ‘Somewhere in England’ album and performed with the remaining Beatles … George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, on Harrison’s Hit single “All Those Years Ago” (U.S. #2 Billboard Hot 100 Hit in 1981). Kooper has also written and composed on countless albums and scores for television and motion pictures.

And let’s not forget an incredible SOLO CAREER  I Stand Alone (1969), You Never Know Who Your Friends Are (1969), Easy Does It (1970), New York City (You’re A Women)(1971), Possible Projection of the Future/ Childhood’s End (1972), Naked Songs (1973), Act Like Nothing’s Wrong (1977), Championship Wrestling (1982), Rekooperation (1994), Soul of a Man (Live album 1995), Black Coffee (2005), and White Chocolate (2008).

Al Kooper published his well- received memoir entitled … Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock ‘N’ Roll Survivor. The first edition was released in 1977 with subsequent editions released in 1998 and 2008. (The 2008 edition being the best of the three).

I had the rare opportunity of chatting with Al Kooper about the remastered classic ‘Super Session’ album on 5.1 Multichannel mix … Al’s column ‘New Music for Old People’ … The Music industry today … Discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd … My infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ question… And much-much more!

Here’s my interview with founding member of The Blues Project, Blood Sweat & Tears, Collaborator with artists such as Bob Dylan, Michael Bloomfield, Stephen Stills, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and many-many other legendary artists! Co-writer of the hit single… “This Diamond Ring,” Producer for numerous bands including Lynyrd Skynyrd & The Tubes … Singer/Songwriter/Producer/Multi-instrumentalist/Columnist/Author/ …AL KOOPER.       ...(WHEW!)
Ray Shasho: Al, thank you so much for being on the call today.
Al Kooper: “You weren’t just talking with David Clayton-Thomas were you?”
Ray Shasho: (Laughing) No, haven’t gotten around to chatting with David yet. I did chat with Judy Collins recently and she told me it was you that introduced her to Joni Mitchell.
Al Kooper: “Yes. I was actually living in her apartment for awhile.”
Ray Shasho: Judy had great things to say about you.
Al Kooper: “Well, that’s why we pay her. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Let’s chat about the re-release of the classic ‘Super Session’ album. The package includes new liner notes written by you that tells the story of the Super Session album and a new 5.1 Multichannel mix.
Al Kooper: “There was a time when Sony the label that owns it had a whole SACD, 5.1 department and they called and asked me if I’d be interested in doing some 5.1 remixes of stuff that I have worked on. So I said sure, they wanted me to do ‘Super Session’ and ‘Child is Father to the Man.’ I didn’t produce ‘Child is Father to the Man’ and so I called the producer and asked him if he was interested … and he said you should do it. So I said are you sure, because you’re the first choice in my book? He said no, I’m not interested and you are. So I did the first one in a week and the second a week after. I’ve only done those two and haven’t done anything else in 5.1.”
Ray Shasho: What will be the main difference in sound using 5.1?
Al Kooper: “You’ve got a great more space to deal with, it’s more of like a totally three dimensional space, so that helps tremendously and gives you more room to spread the instruments out … and vocals etc. I thought it was great that we could do that because when someone found the sweet spot where you need to sit, they could hear everything clearly, which is much tougher to do in a stereo situation.”
Ray Shasho: I thought the sound quality for the original ‘Super Session’ recording was incomparable for 1968.
Al Kooper: “Well it’s an eight-track tape, which means we only had eight tracks to put stuff on, so it’s really a credit to the engineer that it sounds the way it sounds, even more of a credit because we were just making everything up as we were playing it. We weren’t playing some preconceived tune, it was a jam session. With a preconceived tune you can say …well, at this point this is going to happen, and you say watch out for this and like that. But everyone was flying by the seat of their pants, so for him to do such a great job is very rare in a situation like that.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Billy Cobham who told me that the ‘Spectrum’ album was also a fly by the seat of your pants jam session.  I think many of those jam sessions were much better recordings than the over produced ones.
Al Kooper: “We were sort of modeling that album after jazz recordings … but we weren’t playing jazz though.”
Ray Shasho: The ‘Super Session’ album includes so many great jams …“His Holy Modal Majesty” and an incredible version of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” have always been my favorite tracks. I consider that album as one of those timeless and inspiring recordings … much of the same way I feel about the second John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers release.
Al Kooper:  “You mean the one with Clapton on it …or as we call it the Beano album.”
Ray Shasho: I covered John Mayall’s 80th Birthday show here in Sarasota and he looked and sounded fantastic, he was even setting up his own equipment.
Al Kooper:  “Well that’s because he can’t afford a roadie” (All Laughing) I played with him about six or seven years ago… I opened for him and hadn’t seen him for a long time …it was very nice.”
Ray Shasho: Were there any thoughts of you, Michael Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills continuing as sort of a supergroup while touring as a band together?
Al Kooper: “We did do that and played a handful of gigs and two of them are albums. One is called ‘The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper’ and the other one is called ‘The Lost Concert Tapes’ because they were lost for about four years.”
Ray Shasho: So how were they lost?
Al Kooper: “Sony Records. When they found them, they called me; I came in and made an album out of multi-track tapes. So there are actually three situations where Bloomfield and I made albums together that were pretty much jam session albums.”
Ray Shasho: How about some of the other players on the album ... like bassist Harvey Brooks (Electric Flag), did you continue to play with those guys?
Al Kooper: “Harvey and I grew up together and played quite a bit prior to that … way back to when we were little kids. I was born in Brooklyn and actually grew up in Queens.”
Ray Shasho:  Al, we’re definitely looking forward to the re-release of the classic ‘Super Session’ album (Hybrid Multichannel SACD) which will be available on - September 9th.  Al, what else do you have going on these days?
Al Kooper:  “I have a weekly column that I write called ‘New Music for Old People’… and that’s what it is. Its music that just came out that would appeal to someone in my age range. So it’s new releases by anybody, but has to pass my test. If I like it then it goes in the column. I started doing this when iTunes first came out and I discovered all these amazing bands that nobody ever heard of, but they were great, I mean it was music that I really liked as anything else I’ve heard in my life. It all started towards the end of 2003 when iTunes started. I found a place where they had all the new releases every week which was exactly what I was looking to find. So I went through everything every week and I’d find bands that killed me and it was just great. I started buying them and setting up playlists and it changed my life. It took the place of radio. Radio is over. I haven’t listened to mainstream radio in maybe thirty years. Satellite radio is different because they’re trying to do what I’m trying to do. It’s easier for me to get an audience online. I’m a critic, but a critic by omission as well. I never write anything bad about anybody. Not only do I write about it but it’s streamed as well, you can also hear it, which is a nice touch. I think you’ll get a kick out of the column. I’m in my third year now, so I guess I’m getting good at it now.”
Ray Shasho: You also have a memoir out entitled ‘Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock ‘N’ Roll Survivor.’
Al Kooper: “I talk about what happened to me because it was such a bizarre story, and that’s why I wrote it. I had the most bizarre life. There are three editions of it out there and the latest edition is the best one. Backbeat Books is the publisher.”
Ray Shasho: You were also an A&R man for Columbia Records… a job I’ve always wanted to do. Is the A&R position important today as it was back in the 60s or 70’s?
Al Kooper: “The record companies are nothing what it used to be … especially the majors. I don’t feel like I belong there anymore. I don’t understand what those people are doing up there. Consequently, I think it’s just really tough for new bands as a result. But somehow all this great music is reaching me. The column that came out on Friday is called ‘What the Folk Is All This?’ And it’s about bizarre folk music. So it has some old stuff in it that was strange for the time it came out and then stuff from today that is also strange for the time it came out. There is also an artist that killed me, just knocked me out and nothing happened to it. I thought this guy was like the equivalent of Neil Young. And it just came and went, I couldn’t believe it.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Arthur Brown recently, a true rock pioneer, he was so grateful that I thought of him for an interview for my column.
Al Kooper: “Oh I love Arthur Brown. We played on the bill several times together. I thought he was unbelievable. I was also a little bit influenced by his organ player Vincent Crane and he was fabulous.”
Ray Shasho: My fondest memory of Lynyrd Skynrd was in 1975 …I was actually working at the Capital Centre arena in Maryland and watched the band rehearse their new song “Saturday Night Special” with maybe three other guys looking on. I hung out with Skynyrd a bit and then watched the concert later that evening.
How did you first discover Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Al Kooper: “I heard them in a bar. It was in Atlanta and I was there producing a record, I used to work from about midnight to 8pm every day and then me and this band I was producing would go out to this bar and get crazy. In those days, this was 1972, when you played a club you played for six nights. It wasn’t like one-nighters. So we had sat through one band already, and now a new week had started and a new band came in. The first band was okay, they weren’t great or anything, just background noise. So we went in and I saw the marquee and said…What is this … Ly-Nard Sky- Nard …what is this? (All laughing) They were a four-piece when I saw them … not counting the singer. Their songs and arrangements were incredible and I just thought they were amazing, and I got to hear them every night. I had favorites already and by the end of their engagement I offered to sign them. They became the reason why I started my record label (‘Sounds of the South’). I had found another band as well and thought… why am I giving this away, I should just start my own label, and then I moved to Atlanta. As a matter of fact I didn’t even go home from Atlanta. I had my roadies pack up my apartment and I never went home. (Then eventually sold the label to MCA Records)”
“I just love music … that’s what it’s all about.”
Ray Shasho: Al, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview …
Al Kooper:  “About eight inches! (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: No, that’s not it … 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?
Al Kooper: “Well my favorite band of all-time was ‘FREE.’ I would have loved to play with that band. And my favorite track is “The Stealer.”
Ray Shasho: Al, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring. Keep in touch!
Al Kooper: “I will, thank you Ray!”

Pre-order now  ‘Super Session’ (Hybrid Multichannel SACD) –Al Kooper-Mike Bloomfield-Stephen Stills - Official release date September 9th on The package includes new liner notes written by Al Kooper that tells the story of the Super Session album and the new 5.1 Multichannel mix. The 5.1 mix by Al Kooper with mastering by Bob Ludwig was never released and yet it has acquired some fame from industry insiders familiar with the Multichannel mix with comments like "excellent" and "it deserves to be heard."The new mastering of the Stereo tracks for new SACD Stereo and CD Stereo audio are by mastering engineer Steve Hoffman.

Also purchase  ‘From His Head to His Heart to His Hands’ (3 CD/ 1 DVD) by Michael Bloomfield (2014) - Box set An Audio-Visual Scrapbook (2014); a Columbia Legacy career retrospective, produced by Al Kooper. Previously unissued live performances and a DVD that includes the documentary film Sweet Blues: A Film about Mike Bloomfield, the film premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, 2013. –Available now on

Read Al Kooper’s excellent column ‘New Music for Old People’ on The Morton Report … Read Al’s column [HERE]
Al Kooper official website
Very special thanks to the great Billy James of Glass Onyon PR

COMING UP NEXT … Keyboard extraordinaire Patrick Moraz (YES/The Moody Blues)… … Legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) … Don Wilsonguitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures.’ … Country Music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah … And Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”).

Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at

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