It was a warm August evening the day after I did a show at Whites Bar in Saginaw, Michigan. White’s Bar is a tiny hole in the wall place but Bo White has some of the most amazing artist fill the small stage! Chuck & I drove down to Algonac to visit my aunt before flying back to San Diego. While we were all watching a movie on my aunt’s DVD player I received a phone call from Dick Wagner. It’s funny; the last time I was at my aunt’s place I got a Skype call from the Maestro….his face appeared and was wearing a hospital gown with machines running in the background! He was in the hospital! This time was something completely different. He told me about a song he wrote for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital entitled "If I Had the Time" (I Could Change the World). The Rock and Roll Autograph Show was going on in L.A. and there was going to be a group of musicians from the show who were donating their time to record Dick’s song. He asked if I was available to drive up to Hollywood on September 13th to cover the social media. This came about because I gave him a few twitter and Facebook networking tips, so naturally I was the first person that came to mind! I told him I was totally on board! Of course, I would also have an opportunity to join the core singing choir as well. I had NO IDEA what this journey was really about. For me it was “Dick Wagner called and therefore I’m there!”
A little background. During the late 60’s as a fledgling singer in our band ‘Pitche Blende”, we opened up many a show for “Dick Wagner & The Frost, The Bob Seger System, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent……and many more iconic Michigan bands from that time. The first time I heard ‘The Frost” I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe the pristine vocal arrangements and the melodic sounds that came from this group. They were ahead of their time. Today, when people ask me who my musical influences were in the music industry, they expect to hear me say “Grace Slick or “Janis Joplin”….but for me it was Dick Wagner, Donny Hartman and Gordy Garris……The Frost!
I drove up to Hollywood on that Friday as the “social network ninja” and the opportunity to sing some backups with the core vocal group. (Yes, I am a multi-tasking kind of girl who can tweet, text and perform a concert at the same time!) I had no idea what would be waiting there for me at Sunset Sound Studios. It was an honor, to say the least, to meet & hang out with the most AWESOME people, most of those who were signing autographs at the Rock n Roll Autograph show. As a former “Mama” with The New Mamas & Papas I still get “star struck” when I meet musical greats! One would think that after working with John Philips, Denny Doherty and Spanky McFarlane for 5 years it would be “old hat” for me, but let’s face it, I am the consummate people person and a music fan! My friend and "personal assistant" for the day, Valerie Venet, joined me. An actress and former cast member of the hit TV show “The Monkees”, she keeps me in line so I don’t “gush” too much!
The first person I met was Danny Seraphine, drummer of the greatest mega bands of all time "Chicago", who, by the way is one of the SWEETEST people! Then another drummer entered, Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and we instantly began chatting it up. He survived that fateful plane crash that went down in 1977. As I walked into the engineering room, there stood my friend Dick Wagner. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There is a presence about him that commands your complete attention. His manager Susan Michelson was standing by with warm smiles and welcoming hugs. The recording engineer Warren Huart greeted me in his British accent, which always seems to grab my attention. What is it about the British, anyway? After hugs and salutations I confiscated Dick’s iPhone and started tweeting, taking pictures and posting his minute by minute twitter and Facebook status! This went on for a while as the rhythm tracks were being laid down. Michael Jackson’s guitarist “Jennifer Batten”, renowned bassist Lee Sklar (James Taylor), Elliot Easton from “The Cars”, Brad Durden, Hammond B-3 player from Copperhead, pianists Eric Rango and Fred Mandel were all there in the studio listening to the song and preparing to record the basics…If I could mention every personality, musician, manager, producer, media consultant and camera man that I encountered this blog would read more like a book!! Did I mention the professional camera crews and videographers? Cinematographer Enzo Giobbe, what a sweet man!
This project is certainly a labor of love by more than 50 renowned musicians, amazing veterans from the music industry as well as technical engineers, camera crews and film editors! As the singers entered the studio it became clear to me that this was one of those “miracle moments”. I stood next to some the most amazing, gifted people all whom I respected and loved during my wonder years of music appreciation. A few people I came to know and love like Nadir D’Priest and Krigger from the band “London”, Jean Beauvoir, singer, songwriter and former vocalist of “The Plasmatics” and “Crown of Thorns”, Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas, Vinny Martell & Carmine Apace (Vanilla Fudge) Merilee Rush (Angel of The Morning), Trini Lopez, Ted Neely (Jesus Christ Superstar), all precious moments for me. Another Michigan icon and old friend, Mark Farner (Grand Funk) arrived with his wonderful wife Leisa. We shared stories and caught up with life events. At the end of Friday night’s session, Dick asked if I could come back Sunday night, which I immediately said yes, of course. This time we would continue with group singing and with great surprise, I would sing a solo performance on the song. I was seriously humbled. There were so many talented people there and Dick saw fit to bring me in. We Michigan people take care of each other!
Now that the song is finished, the video complete, new friendships created and old ones renewed, I can honestly say that this project is a miracle. Wagner tells us, “There is more love in the human heart than can ever be given away. This song is about giving a small part of that endless supply in your heart.” I believe that with all my heart. The diversity of these artists all came together to create a unified musical composition that transcends love and joy for every generation. You can down load the song if you click on these links for iTunes and CD Baby and many music download sites!
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Life is a journey and each of us, although we have friends, spouses, family and loved ones by our side, ultimately our journey is our own. These are my stories, thoughts, ideas and sometimes just simple observations. My life is an open book! I share this with you hoping you will laugh, be inspired and get to know me a little better through these stories.