Interviews with the Legends
By Tricia Witkower
A little less than two months ago, there was a vision: to bring together several iconic musicians to play as a super group for a one-night spectacular display of talent on September 1 at Big Rock Pub in Indio. This concert’s main purpose was to honor and celebrate legendary drummer, Alvin Taylor, who played with the likes of Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon, George Harrison, Elton John, and many, many more of the most talented and famed musicians. The funds raised at this all-star concert would be used to purchase a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame for Taylor – an honor many believe has been long overdue. The roster of this all-star band included musicians whose rosters read like a who’s who of rock ‘n roll music. Goldy McJohn, founding member and keyboard player of the original Steppenwolf would return to the keyboard and Hammond B3 for this fantastic night along with Terry Ilous, lead singer of Great White, providing lead vocals. With Greg Douglass (of the Steve Miller Band) on guitar, Carmine Rojas (who toured with David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and many more) on bass, and Harold Brown and Marcos Reyes (formerly and currently, respectively, of funk band War) joining in, the Legends & Locals Concert was born.
Almost immediately after tickets went on sale, came the horrible news; Goldy McJohn had succumbed to a massive heart attack and passed away in his home. Out of respect for the loss, there was talk of cancelling the event. In true rock ‘n roll fashion, it was ultimately decided the show was even more important now. Everyone was in full agreement that the concert should now be a tribute to Goldy and the enduring mark he left not only on the music world, but also on the friends and family who knew and loved him – some of whom will be in attendance. As his managing partner at Hungry Genius, Anthony Spadaro, stated, “I know in my heart, as does Sonja (his wife), that this concert must go on. Goldy would want us to do this. As Goldy would say, ‘It’s show time.’”
The talented lineup for this all-star super group will knock the socks off any rock aficionado:
Alvin Taylor (drums): The esteemed drummer, producer, and musical director started playing drums when he was only five years old. At 14, this Palm Springs native left home to go tour with Little Richard. During his time with Little Richard’s band, he played with Jimi Hendrix, Billy Preston, and opened a show for Elvis Presley. After that, his resume includes so many iconic musicians it will make your head spin – George Harrison, Elton John, Sly & the Family Stone, America, Natalie Cole, Ron Wood, and Cher, to name only a few. Taylor has become well-known in the community for mentoring many of the local music scene’s up-and-coming artists. Said Taylor, “One of the main principles that I’ve learned is to encourage anyone and everyone who has a desire to make music their lifetime career. Whether they sing out of key, or play out of tune, they may one day become the best artist that planet earth has ever known. I spend a lot of time working with students because I believe kids are our future. And if I could share with them some of the things I’ve learned, they have a better chance at developing those skills and techniques at an early age.” As a dear friend of Goldy’s, Alvin was devastated, but proud to honor him at the September 1 show.
Terry Ilous (lead vocals): Terry started out as lead singer for melodic metal rock band, XYZ. Since 2009, he’s been the lead singer for rock band Great White. On the side, he has his solo project – a rock flamenco band. In addition to making music, he is also a renowned songwriter and has written and published over 300 songs for musicians, TV, and film. He had never met Goldy, but was excited to work with him and had spoken to him on the phone, noting his wonderful sense of humor. He says, “I called Carmine on bass, Greg Douglass on guitar we go way back. I love the title, I love the name, I love that we bring on stage new talent and give them a chance to play with older talent.”
Jeff Paris (keyboard and Hammond B3): Jeff Paris had huge shoes to fill, and graciously stepped in to play keyboard after he heard of Goldy’s passing. Jeff has played with many rock bands, some of which are Keb Mo, Bill Withers, Dan Fogelberg, Frankie Valli, Ringo Starr, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Bonnie Raitt, Cinderella, Y&T, Lita Ford, and Vixen. Jeff had never officially met Goldy, but tells this story, “The first concert I ever went to was called Newport Pop Festival. It was my first live music experience and Alice Cooper’s first gig! John Kay of Steppenwolf played that same festival. I never met Goldy, but really admired his use of space in these pop songs. He played that grindy B3. Players will play one chord into another. The way he played “Born to Be Wild,” he uses the organ like a horn section; really grindy and dark.” Said Paris of the Legends & Locals show, “I’ve known all these guys for a long time. Terry and I go back more than 25 years, see each other all the time. I’m an only child so he’s one of the closest things I have to a brother. When I first heard Carmine, I was a big fan. He’s like a rock. He effortlessly drops into the pocket. I always wanted to play with him but never had the chance until now. Opportunities with fantastic musicians are few and far between.”
Greg Douglass (guitar): Greg’s musical career got going in the 1960’s where he started out with The Virtues and ended up touring with both Van Morrison and Hot Tuna. He joined the Steve Miller Band for their 10th studio album and co-wrote hit song, “Jungle Love.” As keyboard player Jeff Paris notes about Douglass, “He wrote “Jungle Love” and the guitar part is genius. He naturally tells a story with his playing. I can’t wait to meet him.”
Carmine Rojas (bass): Carmine is a bass man who has performed/toured with David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Al Green, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Ron Wood, among other high-profile musicians. Carmine had never met Goldy, but says he would have enjoyed playing next to him. Of Goldy, “We don’t have many of those guys left. People don’t write like that anymore.” Carmine is eager to play with the others. “It’s fun because we are all rehearsing in different locations. Jeff, Terry and I got together in little groups and are all supposed to meet up next week for our final. We all have different feels and different genres. I saw War, opened up for them. It’s really cool to be having fun with songs and on the same level and for a great reason. Goldy’s our fallen comrade and we’re giving him our support. It’s gonna be a festival, a street party.”
Special guests: Harold Brown and Marcos Reyes. Harold is a founding member of the band War and Marcos is a current member.
This once-in-a-lifetime gathering of talent is part celebration of the lifetime achievements of Alvin Taylor and part tribute to the contributions and friendship of Goldy McJohn, but it’s even more than that. Keeping with the ‘Locals’ portion of this show’s moniker, local talent will have the opportunity to join these legends on stage. Said Terry Ilous of this aspect of the night, “It’s important to give locals a chance to jam. You have to share the stage, share the spotlight with other people. I was given a chance a long time ago and you have to share that. I don’t like the word legends – we’re experienced, lucky artists. I’m looking forward to hearing new talent. It’s all about giving and sharing. Everybody deserves a chance. It’s so hard to make it in this business. Everyone tells you no. I’m always looking for opportunities to better myself and work with people better than me. Surround yourself with people better than you are and learn from them.”
Jeff Paris furthers expounds upon this, “It’s tough for up and coming artists because the resources for them to develop the talent are different than they were for us. The aesthetic of what is considered good or bad has changed. Preferences are to EDM and that kind of thing. The first thing you want to do is try to hone in on what real estate you want to build your house on. Otherwise you’re flitting from one style to another. You can’t serve too many masters. Focus in on what excites you and getting into that.”
“The first thing you do when you learn to play is emulate a person. Kids are being told find your own voice, but when you don’t know how to play, find the best people and learn the tunes and learn how to do it just like them. You’re eventually going to step away from it. Bob Dylan learned to perform like Woody Guthrie. When he started writing he would take pieces of songs and turn them into originals. He emulated and emulated and eventually evolved beyond it. That early emulation was like gas and that’s the fuel that allowed him to go to a place that was not copying. It’s not wrong to imitate and emulate someone who excites you until you find a bag you feel at home in and comes to the next bit of work.”
“No matter how much talent you have, the time and practice you have, that’s what people are going to see. Put in the shed time and practice. If what you’re trying to build doesn’t look like it’s selling, crumple up the paper and come up with a new plan. Jackson Browne lived upstairs from my friend in Laurel Canyon and my friend said he never came down, but played the same song over and over for four hours. He would retain the music and wanted it to be in his bones. Whatever it is you’re gonna do, shed it until you don’t have to think about it. And just because it turns out the person you idolize turns out to be an asshole doesn’t mean they’re not worth idolizing. If you listen to something and everyone says this is the best but it doesn’t give you a feeling, idolize musicians who make you feel something. It’s not an athletic event it’s a communication event.”
This can’t-miss, talent-packed concert will take place on Friday, September 1, 2017, from 6 to 10 pm, at The Big Rock Pub, located at 79940 Westward Ho Drive in Indio, phone (760) 200-9844. Tickets can be purchased at thebigrockpub.com by clicking on the Locals and Legends photo, or go to www.eventbrite.com/e/legends-and-locals-tickets-36639992203?aff=eac2. Please read on for important information for purchasing your tickets.
VIP Fundraiser Ticket: $125 Ticket includes Indoor first-come/first-serve seating* (see important notes regarding seating), Swag Bag, Autographed Poster and 10:00 PM Meet & Greet with Photo Opp. There is a $25 minimum required purchase of food per ticket holder. The $125 ticket price does not include food or beverages. *Important note regarding seating: Tickets are first-come/first-serve. Tables seat groups of 4, 6, 8 and 10. However, if you would like to sit in a specific grouping, please come in to Big Rock Pub to work out seating arrangements prior to Monday, August 28. Requests will be handled on a first-come/first-serve basis, to the best of our ability. Please have all the tickets for your group in hand when making seating requests. Unless you purchase all seats at a table, you will be sharing the table with other ticket purchasers. Call Big Rock Pub and ask to speak to a manager with any questions (760) 200-9844.
Courtyard Tickets: (Enclosed Climate Controlled Patio): $48 Ticket includes first-come/first-serve seating* (see important notes regarding seating), and Autographed Commemorative Poster. Each Enclosed Patio Ticket holder will receive a raffle ticket that could win a 10:00 PM Meet & Greet with Photo Opp. This area is in the enclosed, climate controlled patio at the rear of the indoor venue. There are speakers as well as a large screen that will show the stage as well. There is a $25 minimum required purchase of food per ticket holder. The $48 ticket price does not include food or beverages. *IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING SEATING: Tickets are first-come/first-serve. Tables seat groups of 2, 6, 8 and14. If you would like to sit in a specific grouping, please come in to Big Rock Pub to work out seating arrangements prior to Monday, August 28. Requests will be handled on a first-come/first-serve basis to the best of our ability. Please have all the tickets for your group in hand when making seating requests. Unless you purchase all seats at a table, you will be sharing the table with other ticket purchasers. Call Big Rock Pub and ask to speak to a manager with any questions (760) 200-9844.
General Admission Tickets: $27.50 Ticket will allow outdoor patio access that includes outdoor bars and food service with purchase. The concert can be viewed and heard from the outside bar area through our glass doors and glass walls as well as televisions. While music can be heard from the patio, music will also be amplified through our outside speaker system. Much of the outside patio is cooled by a misting system. The $27.50 ticket price does not include food or beverages. Important Note: Seating will be first-come/first serve.
Call Big Rock Pub and ask to speak to a manager with any questions (760) 200-9844.
Ticket holders under 21 are allowed in the venue until 10 pm. Accompanied minors with meet and greet access may be present at the designated meet and greet area after 10 pm.