Well-Known Musicians — Original Songwriters Who Influenced My Life
— How I Knew Them — Some of The Who, What, When and Where … no need to ask Why ….
[NOTE: This article may take a few days to read — it’s got lotsa very good music included within it!]
As time wears on so do memories. But among the best of all memories are ones of the people I’ve known, and some that I still know. The below meaningful musicians are listed according to the date we met. To me, my life is cherished because I knew them.
The Late-Robert “BJ” Johnson — (1967–1986)
I first met BJ Johnson when I was in high school. I had my parent’s car and we had a tip that live music would be played at a house in Dover, New Hampshire. Our connection to get into the party was an old Black blues man who worked as a dishwasher at Yoken’s Restaurant in Portsmouth NH. We got him, went to the party … but they wouldn’t let him play.
So we split the party and hung out at Hampton Beach that night. On the beach, BJ played harmonica to everyone walking along the boulevard. From that day forward, to this very day, I’ve always felt that I was special because I got to hang around with such a person at that age in my life.
My experience with BJ Johnson is very well described in the below article:
Robert “BJ” Johnson — The Blue Ribbon (Rhythm) Bluesman
— A man with a knack for music and a smile that wouldn’t quit, he was friend to every human he ever met!
The Late-Silus Hubbard — (1968 to 2012)
Silus was long a part of the Beacon Hill — Boston scene. He knew everybody on the non-politician side of The Hill. He knew every bar, every nook and cranny, including where the tunnel was where the old man came from out under The Hill.
He also knew my close friend the late-Idette Yedwall who lived on both Myrtle Street and Joy Street. She introduced me to Silus. We were all about music, roach clip, tye-dye and granola back then. We spent many a day cramped into those small Beacon Hill apartments listening to every record album we could find.
One sunny day I bumped into Silus on Irving Street, and he was wearing a giant smile. He was also holding a bass guitar. He looked at me and said, “Look what I just got!” From that moment on he was on his way. I spent many decades afterwards watching him in all kinds of musical situations. Sometimes, with our friend Neal, we’d make some money by painting apartments and talking about all kinds of life with each and every paint stroke. Silus was a great guy!
Led Zeppelin — Boston Tea Party — (1969-Present)
Actually, even though Jimmy Page walked right by me and I could have tapped him on the shoulder to start up a conversation, I never personally met any of these band members. But I did manage to get front stage when they first performed in America at the old Boston Tea Party on Berkeley Street. My life has never been the same afterwards. Therefore, Led Zeppelin is worthy of Honorable Mention!
[NOTE: I had a similar kind of feeling when I took acid as a young teenager and went to The Civic Movie Theater (now The Music Hall), in Portsmouth NH, to see the movie Blow Up which featured The Yardbirds performing Train Kept A Rollin’]
Indeed, The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin changed my life forever!
Boston Tea Party, Led Zeppelin & Me
— A very good Planet Earth Led Zeppelin story!
Bill Homans (aka Watermelon Slim) — (1971-Present)
Billy and I were in the army and got discharged around the same time. I was a conscientious objector out at Fort Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. While on active duty I started up a GI resistance newspaper called The Morning Report and helped to open a GI resistance coffee house called The Common Sense Bookstore.
Bill and I met as we were both also part of the Cambridge chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In those Harvard Square days VVAW and the Legal In-Service Project (GI Resistance) shared the MassPax office on Auburn Street across from Pinocchio's famous pizza house. Not only was Bill Homans a great orator and resistance organizer, he was a damn good musician always playing slide guitar either in the office, at parties, the front gate of Fort Devens and lots of peace rallies.
When the war ended and the peace movement faded I ended up managing rock n’ roll bands. But I also for a spell managed Billy and I tried real hard to connect him to a record contract with Adrian Barber (see Adrian described below) and Starship Productions. It almost happened, but fate intervened when I got arrested with a lot of pot. This, at the time, put an end to everything I was working on, including my rock band Harlow.
Oh, well … so it goes. But Billy went on to become famous without my help. He became the famous Watermelon Slim. He has toured the world with his blues music. I am pleased and proud to call him my good friend!
The Late-Phil Ochs (1972–1976)
Back in the early-’70s, as a worker in America’s GI Resistance Movement and Vietnam Veterans Against The War, I met Phil Ochs in a Georgetown pub when I went to Washington DC. I traveled to DC from Cambridge, Massachusetts in order to meet with members of Congress in a bid to stop Nixon from re-escalating the Vietnam War. In my briefcase at the time was proof from America’s GI Resistance Movement that, among other things, North Vietnam cities Hanoi and Haiphong Harbor would be bombed. Hundreds of thousands of people would soon die. Phil provided me contacts of members of Congress who could help. We met a few times in that pub. It was a pleasure to have a few beers with Phil Ochs. But it was eerie and sad that every time we met we each knew massive death and destruction would follow our meeting.
The Rat Club in Boston — (1974–1997)
Indoctrinated into rock n’ roll in the ’60s by The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and several British bands who performed at The Boston Tea Party, and having survived The Vietnam War and The Peace Movement it was only natural that I would be among the first people to find my way into The Rat Club when it first opened for the Punk v. Disco Wars.
So many were the great Rat bands! I’ll simply let Wikipedia do the description:
The Rathskeller - Wikipedia
During its heyday, the Rat hosted such acts as the Cars, the Pixies, Metallica, Dead Kennedys, the Ramones, Talking…
As time wore on, life changed into The New Millennium and I eventually evolved into a rock musician, I became administrator for The Rat Page on Facebook in 2012. I also organized seven years of annual Rat Beach Party concerts at The C-Note concert club on Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts.
Annually, 35 to 45 bands full of Rat Club musicians performed in a reunion-like spirit. We also featured and blended high school-aged bands. These shows raised money for the local high school music department and other great and needy causes. We would have kept it going, but deadly Covid Pandamic stopped us in our tracks.
The Late-Stephen “Gideon” Eisner (1974-2009) and J. Bruce Scott (1974-Present)
[NOTE: Bruce now performed in my band Climate Change]
Gideon is one of the more amazing people I’ve known in my life. He was up there among the greatest musicians, but he never could find his fame nor would he accept it. He always stayed down there with the small folk. He would play a song for a homeless person with the same drive and intensity as he’d invoke while performing on a big name stage.
We met in the early-mid ’70s when I was managing Boston bands after the peace movement faded. The rock band Harlow I formed and managed had a drummer, Brian “Pearly” Chase (also in The Sidewinders), who went to high school with Gideon. Over the years, both would jam and become members of Harlow, Brian an early member and Gideon a latter member. Near the end of the band’s life cycle, Tom Scholz of Boston fame left the band. Gideon took his place as the second guitarist behind Johnny Tomorrow. Harlow broke up and Gideon disappeared.
I next found him when I left being a state representative in New Hampshire’s legislature in order to become a Harvard Square street musician. When I met Gideon in the ’70s I didn’t know how to play guitar. In the early ’80s I taught myself how to play. By the early ’90s, there I was with Gideon playing our guitars and singing our original songs in Harvard Square. He then disappeared again.
I found him again in 2005 when I had a winter rental mansion at Nantasket Beach and I had a room to rent. Having no idea it was me, Gideon responded to an ad I placed on Craigslist, describing how he’d be the perfect housemate. I wrote back telling him there was no need for him to be perfect, I knew who he was, that it was me and he now lived where I lived. So began our third musical collaboration.
What was unique about Gideon and myself is we were both prolific songwriters — he had over a 100 and I had 75 originals — and we each performed in Open-D tuning. We teamed up with Gideon’s old bandmate J. Bruce Scott (bass, violin and lap steel guitar) of The One Band and formed The Rolling Beatles. Below is a YouTube auto playlist:
Tragically, while wandering around at midnight under an early April full moon at a Nantasket Beach site where he often pondered his songwriting — an isthmus connecting the ocean to the bay and overlooking World’s End in Hingham — Gideon suffered a fall. Unable to move, he never recovered. He died of hypothermia from his night in the cold. The world lost a very great musician!
Bruce, being both a bassist and a violinist musician throughout his career, already had conquered both the bottom and the top of music, . But when he added performing on lap steel guitar (with a whammy bar) he instantly became an extra-dimensional musician. His lap steel work is able to transition his sound from being the sweetest-like violin into suddenly transforming into guitar dimensions of Jimi Hendrix. I call him a musician extraordinairre!
Bruce and I keep Gideon’s musical spirit alive via our continuation in the Climate Change band. Below is a YouTube playlist of our original songs. Both elderly in our years, we’re trying to regroup after a three-year absence from the music scene due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Please keep your fingers crossed, maybe we’ll soon have some new original songs recorded. Here is a YouTube auto-playlist of Climate Change:
The Late-Adrian Barber — (1974 to 2020)
It’s not often you meet someone who not only knows everything there is to know about music, but who has also done everything there is to do in music. And so it was when I had the pleasure to hook up with Adrian Barber during the mid-70s in Boston. Also, interesting was his Starship Productions partner Buddy Verga. They were a dynamic duo who had taken a strong interest in the Harlow band I formed and managed.
Although Harlow only stayed together a couple of years and went through several manifestations of band members, the combination of Johnny Tomorrow and Tom Scholz as lead guitars with Keith Thompson and Jon Jules at the rhythm section was the very best. The band was great enough to catch the eye and ear of Adrian Barber!
One memorable performance moment was a day where the temperature reached 102 degrees. It was a concert on Boston’s Esplanade organized by the Cambridge Polyarts Festival. Harlow was the feature band. The opening acts were Richard & The Rabbits (who became The Cars) and renown Boston band Foxpass. Everybody was literally baked to the ground to the sound of excellent rock n’ roll that eventually made history!
Yes, Adrian did it all! He was the guitar player for Cass & The Casanovas and The Big Three. He was also a renown record producer, noted for recording The Beatles Live! at The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany in 1962. He also produced The Allman Brothers self-titled debut album along with The Velvet Underground’s album Loaded. Sadly, he died due to Covid 19. He spent his later years in life in Hawaii.
Brian Epstein had two choices: The Beatles or The Big Three. He went with The Beatles and changed history. But Adrian helped as he reconfigured Paul McCartney’s bass amplifier into a quad amp — a game changer! Adrian quit The Big Three when it became a quartet. He went on to become one of the world’s best recording engineers and record producers. For Atlantic Records:
1969 Cream — Goodbye; 1969 The Allman Brothers Band; 1967 Aretha Franklin — I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You; 1968 Aretha Franklin — Aretha Now; 1969 Velvet Underground — Loaded (also drumming on 2 tracks); 1969 The Young Rascals — Freedom Suite; 1969 The Young Rascals; 1968 Buffalo Springfield — Last Time Around; 1969 Bee Gees — Odessa; 1969 Aretha Franklin — Lady Soul; 1971 Aretha Franklin — Aretha’s Greatest Hits; and 1973 Aerosmith — Aerosmith.
Had fate been kind, my band Harlow would have become Adrian’s 1975–75 major production under The Starship Productions banner. I also attempted to get Bill Homans (Watermelon Slim) signed on. Unfortunately, I got arrested with a lot of pot and everything fell part. Adrian eventually moved to Hawaii and I have no idea what happened to Buddy (would sure like to find him again).
Tom Scholz —( 1975–Present)
I know it’s hard to believe, but I actually met Tom Scholz after he answered a classified ad I had placed in The Boston Phoenix. I was looking for a Hammond B-3 keyboard player to go along with the lead guitarist, bass player and drummer for Harlow.
At the time we were rehearsing at The Earth Guild-Grateful Union Bookstore warehouse on Tudor Street in Cambridge. It was a perfect rehearsal studio, what with low ceilings and aisles of balls of yarns, fabrics, craftworks and books and located close to Central Square. Very likely, it was among the very best rehearsal spaces any Metro Boston band ever had!
Anyway, one twilight evening on a very nice day, Tom shows up for his Harlow audition. He pulls up driving an XKE Jaguar with a trailer on the back carrying his Hammond B-3. Quite a sight to see! Fascinated, me and the band members gathered ‘round to greet Tom as he gets out of his Jag. During our hearty handshakes he chips in, “I hope you don’t mind, but I also brought my Les Paul. I’m a pretty good guitarist.” We told him we didn’t mind a bit.
And so began some of the best musical months of my life. Harlow lead guitarist Johnny Tomorrow had a couple dozen original songs and Scholz seemed to have dozens of ’em. My drink of those days was JB Scotch and every week I got to sip and enjoy music that would eventually become gold album songs as Scholz eventually recorded many of the songs I was hearing with his famous Boston band.
Scholz selected Johnny’s song I Think I Like it for his Third Stage album. The tune gives a pretty good impression as to what the Harlow band sounded like back then. Unfortunately, I lost the only cassette tape recording I had of Harlow. I think our road manager, John Herndon has a copy. I certainly bet Tom has a few Harlow cassette rehearsal tapes tucked away somewhere! It’d be nice if someone could somehow nudge those into existence!
Jamie Brockett — (1976–Present)
I only knew Jamie closely for a short bit of time. He long lived in New Hampshire, but mostly he kept to the country parts, whereas I lived in the small seacoast city of Portsmouth (where I was born). But there was a spell of time when Jamie came around The Port City and became a regular on the scene at the renown folk club called The Press Room.
I lived on Sheaffe Street directly behind The Press Room. My pad became the place where Jamie would escape to smoke a joint or few and have an extra beer or few. My beer of the day back then was Becks. We’d sit around my small apartment and chat and joke about the whole world. He also listened to some classical improvisation I was doing on my guitar. At the time, I was teaching myself how to play.
One of my proudest moments musically was when I was able to convince him to play The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic in my living room. As always, he didn’t want to do it … but he did! Jamie was a great guy and the kind of person you’d meet and never want to go away. But go away he did as Jamie has lived all across the United States. It was great to share a few moments in his life.
TJ Wheeler — (1981 to Present)
When I first met TJ, a man gifted with a very great sense if humor, it was at the end of his ‘wild man’ days, back when he was a thinker, drinker and a stinker — lol! But more than anything, TJ was all about jazz and blues, and he was a top-notch guitarist. He learned from the best of ’em, he performed with the best of ’em and he traveled the world.
In my young ’30s, I met TJ during an open mic at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Press Room. Having just learned a few guitar chords I would play a few tunes at Rocky’s Tuesday Night Hootenanny. New in town, TJ checked into the club one night. While talking, he said he needed a roommate for an apartment he just got. I said “I’ll check it out.”
We pulled out of the club and climbed into his Thunderbird. After he revved his engine a lot, we took a left going the wrong way down the street in front of the police station. I said, “TJ, we’re going the wrong way and we’re passing the police station.” He said, “Now, I know where they are!” He then took a right going the wrong way down another street. We finally got legal after his third turn.
I moved into the apartment and we became great friends. Together, we worked on all kinds of charity projects where we linked musicians with great causes. One of the most notable was when the bluesman BJ Johnson (see above) ended up living in a nursing home. I organized a softball team to play for the home in a highly competitive league — we’d bring the old folks out of the home to attend our games.
Every St. Patty’s Day we’d throw an annual dance party always featuring four bands — with TJ and BJ as the headliners — to raise money for the folks so they could attend our games and for the team’s uniforms, league and New England tournament fees. We were a pretty good team:
I introduced TJ to a lovely lady artist from my high school. They hit it off instantly and became married. Nadine brought not only a true sense of joy to his life, but she also managed to get him to calm down. He has since organized numerous musical projects for teaching school-aged children not only the blues music, but its history. How it came into being, its continuation, its impact and importance in life today.
I was renown for being “The Typist” given I could type well over 100 words per minute. One day TJ came to me and asked me to type his proposal for a charitable blues organization. He wanted to call it The Blues Band Collective. But I made a typo and it came out The Blues Bank Collective which is what it’s been ever since. One of the nicest people anybody anywhere could ever meet is TJ Wheeler. I am honored.
Bo Diddley — (1987–2008)
I didn’t know him personally and I never got to hang with him. But in 1987 I did get 15 minutes of fame with Bo Diddley.
For me, it was quite the moment. In all my life I never met anyone where I felt a sense of fear, intimidation and nervousness at the greeting. But, surprisingly, that’s how I felt with Bo Diddley. I was a brand new radio reporter for WAVI in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Bo was doing a show at the newly opened and renovated Music Hall, the former Civic Movie Theatre where I saw the movie Blow-Up as a teenager on acid back in the mid-60s.
Bo was among my very first interviewees as a reporter. I think, more than anything, I was nervous due to my inexperience. I wasn’t at all used to doing radio interviews, but there I was interviewing the great indomitable Bo Diddley, a man who carried extra presence.
At the time I was meeting him, Bo Diddley was a top-of-the-line music personality who’d been screwed over by the music industry his whole life. By my questions, it seemed he carried a bit of anger in him as I queried him about music. I could well sense his angst.
But I gained his instant respect when I brought up that I had a role in the battle in New Hampshire to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a state holiday. Once I delved into the topic of politics, Bo knew I was on his side. The rest of the interview went nicely. I wish I had a recording of it, as it would have been a great keeper.
King honored -- unofficially -- in N.H.
CONCORD, N.H. -- Amid the bustle of a regular state work day, New Hampshire activists, religious leaders and…
The Late-Little Joe Cook — (1992–2000)
Little Joe Cook was all fun and smiles. He was a musician who managed to delight everybody, not only by his music but by his warm and endearing personality. And smile he did as he entertained thousands who became his audience at The Cantab in Central Square Cambridge. He learned his moves in music from his mom, Annie Bell who was a Capital Records blues singer on a circuit with Big Maybell and Bessie Smith. Indeed, Little Joe Cook & The Thrillers carried on his mom’s musical tradition very nicely!
Every Wednesday and Sunday night throughout most of the ’90s there I was on rollerblades dancing with my friends to sounds of Little Joe Cook’s blues jams. His house band was very tight, James Brown tight. The folks who sometimes came to perform with him were spectacular, whether it be Weepin’ Willie, Shirley Lewis, members of The Platters, Delphonics or Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes. Little Joe brought ’em all in!
ATOMIC Magazine: The Essential Guide to the Retro Revival
The year was 1957. Major John Glenn set an air speed record, while the Russians launched the Sputnik 1 satellite…
He always presented a smile. He even got to smile at my house. Surrounded by MIT and industrial park offices, I was fortunate my house was the only residence within the zip code … so we could play music all night long. On Thursday nights we always had a live musical spaghetti party and sometimes Little Joe and friends would pop in.
The Late-Henry “Blues Boy” Spencer — (1992–2000)
We both smoked non-filtered Pall Malls, although I preferred Chesterfield Kings. Whenever there was a pack of either, Henry and I sit around and smoke ’em all! Henry was a fun guy always willing to go anywhere in a good conversation.
Until I went and got old myself, I always had an ole’-timer around me. Someone I was close to, someone godfather-like. Someone with whom I’d always share life’s deepest secrets and complications knowing I had an ear. I guess they were like my preacher substitute. But this was also someone I’d always try to help in one way or another. BJ Johnson (see above) was that man in the ’80s. Henry Spencer became that person throughout the ‘90s.
During daylight hours, Henry was usually found in Central Square, Cambridge, sittin’ on the park bench in front of The Cantab. He was near always found somewhere close to that bench. Anyway, I’d easily find him whenever I rollerbladed through The Square.
There we’d sit, puff on our smokes and talk about the world around us and the people we knew. Henry knew a lot of the same folk I knew. With a deep and very gruffy voice, he was always a great conversationalist, sometimes a storyteller. Even if the topic was one he didn’t understand, he accepted the conversation and always appeared interested. He loved life, he loved people and he loved being there wherever it was!
In the nighttime? His world was all about music. It seemed like four nights a week Henry was putting time in at The Cantab, always able to play a tune or few on his harmonica. He was known as Blues Boy Henry. Little Joe Cook always gave him stage time. They were great friends! Sometimes they would quibble. That was always fun — lol!
Indeed, both Henry and I knew the value of drinking only in pubs where insults were taken kindly!
From 1992 until year 2000 I threw a musical-spaghetti party every single Thursday night. When we moved to the new party house near where Henry lived, his party attendance became a near-perfect. At these amazing parties Henry was either on the top floor playing harp with the acoustic folks or he was down in the basement jamming hard with those in the electric scene. We always made sure he got a good helping of spaghetti! These parties were all-nighters. For a man his age, he’d often outlast the younger folk.
The Late-Shirley Lewis — (1994–2013)
I first saw Shirley several times at the blues jams at The Cantab where she’d perform with very great musicians and move things up a notch not only with her powerful voice but also with her stage presence. In the early going it was a wink, a nod or an eye of appreciation whenever we’d meet. She knew all the Cantab people I knew, but it took a while for her and I to have a real conversation.
I later discovered her singing with some friends at other clubs. My friends not only moved nicely with the blues riffs, they also put out some strong rock n’ roll. Lo and behold, there was Shirley Lewis staying with them, singing every bit in the rhythm and power of the moment. Never skipping a beat, she was a remarkable performer!
Shirley Lewis was also the winner of the Battle of the Blues Bands at Harpers Ferry in Boston in 1989. She was known as the Regal Queen of The Blues and she proved this not only with her sweet-to-hard voice, but also with her gowns and hats. Shirley was a presence on or off the stage. Anyone near her was within the realm of appreciation.
I learned from Shirley the sun really does shine behind the clouds, that something very great can musically exist behind something not seen, anticipated or well understood. It was not only the power of her participation in music, but also the power of her friendship, the power of her ways that enveloped me.
It became my true delight and pleasure to know her a lot better when she eventually began coming to some of my musical spaghetti parties. I loved it when I saw Shirley sing everywhere she went and I loved it knowing she was doing this as my friend. I believe she had this effect on everyone. Blessed be Shirley Lewis, here, there and everywhere!
by Ted Drozdowski Shirley Lewis is a Singer, with a capital "S." That's understood when she puts down the microphone…
Kevin So — (1996–Present)
Sometimes I think of Kevin as one who got away. He was very great on the Boston-Cambridge music scene.
First time I met him was when he began coming to my Thursday Night Spaghetti Parties. He always showed with a great group of friends and he was always a happy performer with all who shared the music part of the party. There wasn’t anyone who heard him then who wasn’t impressed, a tremendous songwriter!
The first time I ever heard him sing with his guitar I knew he was extra special. When you heard his original songs he delivered you to a place you’d never expect to go while hearing music. He was and is that original, that good! When listening, I remember thinking: “How’d he come up with that!?!”
Born in Boston and with my Cambridge parties now finished, it seems he’s gone off and done did good! He is a lot in Nashville, sometimes in New York. Recently, he’s been on tour as keyboard/vocalist in the Keb’ Mo’ Band. But forget not: Kevin So is a spectacular solo performer!
Kevin is the kind of musician you wish you could wind back the clock only to see and hear him perform again.
KEVIN SO, SINGER SONGWRITER, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Next Kevin So concert: NOVEMBER 19 COLDEN AUDITORIUM FLUSHING, NY More info coming soon. Follow me on Facebook => [HERE…
Jane Meyers — (2001-Present)
Jane is a songwriting musician few people ever knew about. I only discovered her because I moved to Nantasket Beach (Hull, Massachusetts). At a beachside biker bar I bumped into my an ole’ Cambridge friend, an R&B and blues drummer named Robert “Scoop” Davies. Scoop was drumming regularly with The Dry Dock’s Sunday afternoon house boogie band.
It was a beautiful Monday springtime afternoon and Scoop had come to pick up his drums from the day before. Rollerblading around, I just happened to pop in for a beer on a hot day. We were holding down the end corner of the bar and talking with the owner. That’s when a scantily-clad Jane appeared and began pumping money into the Juke box. She wasn’t just pumpin’ in the dough, she literally was humping the juke box.
Shortly after this, nurse Teresa — a blue-eye blonde, also scantily clad — came into the bar and began playing pool. Scoop joined her for a game. Jane knew Teresa and eventually the four of us ended up chatting at the bar. I had just gotten tipped a case of Heinekens from a paint job I finished, so I asked: “Would you all like to come over to my house where we can polish off a case of Heinekens?”
So to my house we went, me driving with Scoop in his van, and Teresa driving with Jane in her huge Harley Davidson camper van. At Nantasket Beach all houses are close to the ocean or bay. I lived on R Street and it turned out Teresa lived on P Street. Anyway, we sat around the round table, downing the beers and passing my ‘67 Guild D-35 acoustic guitar between Scoop, Jane and myself, trading off songs.
I met Scoop, a longtime musician, back in the ’70s back when I didn’t know how to play guitar. I could tell I was impressing him with some of my original tunes. But the person stealing the day was Jane. With a very gifted voice, her original songs were spectacular. In my humble opinion, however, she should have become famous a long-long time ago. But a troubled boyfriend and being a mother in single parenthood made it very difficult for her to concentrate on her music.
Matt Gilbert — (2012 to Present)
Boston’s Matt Gilbert is as great as any guitarist anywhere, any city Planet Earth. It’s my pleasure Matt is both my friend and lead guitarist in my band Climate Change. He’s a character of extraordinary delight and he has an intense ability to capture any sound or any moment and perfectly complement it with guitar riffs that nobody else has — he is unique!
When not doing this, he’s busy being a funny guy. It’s a perfect combination.
If one were to see what Matt’s lead guitar work looks like, it would appear as follows:
Over the decades on the Boston music scene, Matt cut his chops in a couple of ways.
First, he’s lived for decades on Boston’s Hemenway Street in the heart of the Berklee School of Music — he’s seen thousands of different musicians come and go. Many have been the days over the years where he’d be out on a nice day busking his tunes on Newbury and Boylston streets or near Fenway Park. He’s met musicians from all around the world. With Matt, it’s not just his amazing guitar-playing talent. Importantly, it is the fact that he is the whole musician!
Second, he was lead guitarist for the popular band Harlequin, a band that grabbed lots of admiration over the ’80s and ’90s. Steady were appearances at clubs like The Rat, The Middle East or Chet’s. Then there were the road gigs. Harlequin got around!
For me, Matt came along at the perfect time. My deep friend Gideon had passed away and I had no idea where I would go next musically. We met as conversationalists on the Rat thread on Facebook. My memories stretched to the time of The Rat opened in the ‘70s, whereas Matt was around for the powerhouse times of the ’80s into the club’s closure during the ‘90s. It was actually from our conversations that The Rat Beach Party reunion concerts were conceptualized.
Prior to the Inaugural Rat Beach Party, I was experimenting with a band that included two female drummers and a female bass player. They’d back me on my original songs. We were called: Heavy Weddle & The PrettyKats.
Having pretty much always been a backbench folksinger who rarely ever did cover tunes, I had no stage experience as an electric musician. Neither did The PrettyKats as they barely knew how to perform — but try they did. They played their hearts out! Somehow, we managed to pull off a couple of impressive gigs: The MerryWanna Ball sponsored by statewide pot legalizer advocates MassCann; and we also performed at Occupy Boston. We also played a couple of clubs at the beach.
We had lots of fun, but the problem was our band was greater in theory than in practice. As it turned out, my dating the bass player didn’t help and the two girl drummers eventually found themselves at each other’s throats. I tried another combination afterwards, but that didn’t work either.
So when the Inaugural Rat Beach Party rolled around, I pulled together a hodge-podge unit of different musicians, Matt among them. We’ve been performing on stage together ever since. Often Matt’s Harlequin colleague the late-Reno Daly would play bass and Bruce would be on lap steel. With Reno’s passing Bruce began playing bass. We finally settled on Jerry Yalmokas as our drummer to complete the band.
Soon we will revive the band after having been dormant due to my health issues combined with the Covid Pandamic. Besides becoming old, I’ve also got some serious breathing problems. Recently, Matt and I got together a couple of times. We managed to get a cellphone recording of my original song Wounded Animal (these days many of us are feeling like wounded animals) up on our Facebook Climate Change Band page. We’ll do one more session and then we’ll bring Bruce back on board.
[NOTE: While we were inactive Jerry has drummed his way into other pastures, so he won’t be returning as a full band member. We wish him the best! Meanwhile, we’re looking for a new drummer, possibly a bass player so we can move Bruce off bass and get him back on lap steel. He and Matt trading leads is worth the price of any admission.]
All in all? Hope is in the mill. We keep our smiles in front of us and our musical instruments at ready!