- After some 20 years, there was no escape!!! Finally, a Weather Update DVD has been released. Featuring Joe Zawinul, Victor Bailey, Peter Erskine and, Bobby Thomas and apparently recorded in Munich, Germany. I don't remember much at all about this particular concert. The DVD contains 7 tracks, but is missing what was, perhaps, our best tune, "Madagascar" and the duet Joe and I used to play of "In a Silent Way." I exchanged some e-mails with Peter Erskine and he tells me that it was a sleeveless T-shirt night at the Philharmonic!!! Lucky for me it was 20 years ago, and there was lots of black hair to go around!!!
I am, of course, reminded of my favorite Zawinul story from that tour. During the Italian portion, a concert was canceled, and we were stranded for one week in the baking, brutal heat of the lovely one-street town, Civitanova Marque on the Adriatic Coast. My room was the size of your closet. To survive, I bought two fans, and took 2-3 showers in the middle of the night, EACH night!!! To break the monotony, we decided to pay our bus drivers some money to drive us to Firenze so that we could visit the da Vinci Museum, and just get OUT of the city. As that glorious moment approached, and we were all leaving the hotel that morning, Zawinul was returning. And so, Peter Erskine, with all due enthusiasm and boyish excitement cried out to him: "Hey Joe, wanna come with us, and soak-up some culture?" To which Joe then replied, bellowing in his inimitable and gruff voice: "I don't need no f#&kin' culture, I AM CULTURE!!!" I think that this says about all one needs to know about the man!!! He is, truly, a piece of work!!! But, I love the guy, dearly!!! I say this because, when my father passed away in January of '93, one of the first messages on my answering machine was from Joe!!! One never forgets such thoughtful acts. And for this and countless other things, Joe Zawinul occupies a special place in my heart.
I hope that there will be something of merit in the music. Until I know for certain, we'll just have to hope for the best!!! One thing is certain, this was filmed before my Strat, my Martin MC-28, and my two Roland JC-120s were stolen out of our equipment truck in Chicago. So, you'll be getting a last look at those pieces of ancient equipment!!!
- The other day, quite out of the blue, I received a sequence of 4 individual photos from the Photo Gallery Archives of the great Peter Erskine. After I finished laughing hysterically for hours, I decided to make a composite photo, a collage to share with everyone. So now, in addition to seeing these classic photos, you can also read Peter's captions for each one. From left to right, here are Pete's captions for each photo in the sequence, which now spans over 30 years of wonderful memories and friendship!
 Steve doing his original impression[with an additional stick twirl for good measure] of Lionel Hampton from the Zildjian Cymbal Set-Ups book. Photo taken during the Maynard Ferguson recording session for "NEW VINTAGE" @ MediaSound 1977
 Jaco Pastorius doing his impression of Steve's impression of Lionel Hampton from the Zildjian Cymbal Set-Ups book. Photo taken during the Joni Mitchell "MINGUS" recording session @ A&M Studios ca. 1978.
 Peter doing his impression of Jaco's impression of Steve doing Lionel Hampton from the Zildjian Cymbal Set-Ups book. Photo taken during a recording session, this time at the "WEATHER REPORT" recording session @ Power Station studios, ca. 1981.
 To the present, and Peter doing his impression of Pete's impression of Jaco's impression of Steve doing Lionel Hampton from the Zildjian Cymbal Set-Ups book. Photo taken outside of Budapest, Hungary @ the Drum Museum in Cegléd - and, best of all, Pete is standing right in front of the original Lionel Hampton photo that inspired this bit of insane comedy.
FINAL NOTE: If you look closely at Pete's last photo, you can see that HE is the ONLY one of us who actually captures what Lionel Hampton was REALLY doing in the original photo!!!! I now realize that "Hamp" only had ONE stick under his chin, and the other one was actually under his arm!!! I guess my childhood memory of that photo, from Zildjian Cymbal Set-ups book, was too fuzzy to get it correctly for my original impression - this is now the best part of all!!! Thanks Pete for this great classic comedy moment!!!
- Well, from the land of bizarre events, I am reporting the following story. During 2002, while my dear friend, Rafael Greco was visiting me from Venezuela, here in New York, he asked me where I kept my natural wood finish "Telecaster Custom" from the 'old days' and I told him, "Well, it's buried in the back of that closet, in its Fender case, where I haven't seen it in years." But, because he wanted to see this guitar, which meant so much to me during the '70s, I decided to attempt to unearth it. I must tell you all that the only reason I have kept it was to preserve it to leave to my dear son, Heath one day. And so, into the closet I went, out came the cases one by one, showing him the other guitars as I went along. Finally, I reached the black Fender case, and confidently opened it up, only to find that it was completely and totally empty! There was NOTHING inside! NO GUITAR!!! How could this be possible?
So, I searched my ever-failing brain to find the answer to this mystery. I first phoned the company which stores some of my equipment, in hopes that an old Haliburton case, with the foam cut out to hold both a Telecaster and a Stratocaster together, would somehow have the Tele inside. I was quickly told that it did not! I recalled that I had a 2nd black Fender guitar case, and now had to hope that it might have been there too. But some days later, after a dusty search, the case was not there! Still NO guitar!!! Manolo Badrena suggested that perhaps I had loaned it to Steve Jordan some years ago, and I phoned Steve. Again, no such luck!!! So, as I sat here back then in 2002, totally confused, baffled, I can tell you that there is NO guitar, and I have NO IDEA what I did with it!
The terrifying thought that I had was that when I moved uptown in '93, perhaps to save space here, I threw out the 2nd black Fender case, thinking that the guitar was safely inside the 'good' case, not realizing that the guitar was actually in the case I was throwing out? If that's what I did, I can only say that now, there can be no doubt that I totally had lost my mind some years ago. There are those who would say that I have now finally had "the breakthrough" I need in self-examination!?!?! The guitar was marked with the unique feature of having a puffy stick-on decal of "Hekyl and Jekyl"(the magpies), given to me by my dear friend, Will Lee!!! If anything, this "amazing story" only adds credence to the notion that 'moving' is one of the single most stressful events a human can endure!!!
- On Monday night, October 7th, '02, Steve did an incredibly stupid thing while attempting his yearly post-summer removal of the AC(air-conditioner) unit from the bedroom window.....which, for the record, is on the 2nd floor and overlooks the sidewalk on West End Ave., in New York City.
Well, we don't know why, but he somehow did not employ his usual procedure for getting it safely out of the window. That is to say, by usually holding onto the handle with one hand, and then bringing it into the room slowly with the other hand, until it could be firmly grabbed and supported with both. But, nooooooooooooo!!!! He just raised the window without holding onto anything, and the next thing he knew the AC unit was falling/flying out the window and down below!!! He then committed an even worse error in judgment, and grabbed at the AC cord(electricity cable) which then completely sliced through his left hand("rope burn" style). AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!
Blood was flying everywhere! It looked like Manson had been there, either one, Chuck(Charles) or Marilyn!!! But first, we must let you know that no one was injured below! Thank goodness. Wow, that would have been too much to have injured, not to mention to have possibly killed, an innocent person walking beneath the window at that horrifying moment.
Well, as there was no Clara Barton(a nurse, founder of the Red Cross) standing nearby, he quickly ran into the bathroom, grabbed the hydrogen peroxide and just threw it all over his mangled hand.....most of the damage seemed to be around his 3rd finger, the one next to the pinky!!! Coño!!! Anyway, when he finally had the courage to actually look down and assess his wounds, he felt that he had been pretty lucky, and was certain that he didn't need stitches or a trip to the hospital Emergency Room. Next step, an immediate run to the freezer for ice bags.....he then spent the rest of the night icing the damn thing to prevent any swelling. But when he finally tried to go to sleep there were a few monstrous moments of insane throbbing!!!! Faaaaahhhhhhccccckkkk!
The next morning, Tuesday, October 8th, he went to his doctor's office to get the annual flu shot....and took the opportunity to get a professional swabbing of the wounds. The bandaging made it all look much worse than it was. What a mess! Parts of his hand looked like hamburger meat!!!! There, are you properly grossed out yet?
At that point in time, Steve's message to everyone was: "Take care my guitar playing brothers. Shred, shred, shred.......because the skin on this hand is totally shredded!!!!"
However, now it's Thursday, October 24th, and the healing is miraculously nearly complete, and Steve is playing again. The truth is, if he had needed to play the next day, he could have done it.
P.S. The most ridiculous part of all of this is that the AC unit, a GE® "Carry Cool" portable......hit a plant on the way down which lessened the impact.....and, if you can believe this, the damn thing still works!!! Can you believe that?!?!?!?!
So, what is the lesson here? Well, simply put, BE CAREFUL!!!
In an update to this story, I can now tell you that just this past summer of '05, my brave, courageous "Carry Cool" finally died of natural causes and had to be discarded. Truly a sad, sad moment. And, worst of all, I couldn't find another "Carry Cool" to replace it!!!
- And now, the great Hollywood Holiday Inn FIRE story......
During those years, and at varying times, as schedules permitted, I did
some touring with singer/songwriter, Michael Franks. His band was filled with great players, who also happened to be dear friends of mine. Drifting in and out of the band were people like: Manolo Badrena; Mark Egan; Bill Evans; Gil Goldstein; Clifford Carter; Danny Gottlieb; and Robin Gould. For the Hollywood Bowl concert, we were booked into the conveniently located Holiday Inn on Vine St. in Los Angeles.
Like many well-traveled musicians, I have my own little 'road
routine' to try to keep myself at peace, and to not allow any of the external forces to smash my spirit. And so, on this particular evening, after the concert, we returned to the hotel in the van, and, of course, we all knew that there was an early wake-up call to be 'in the lobby' to take another van to the airport, and continue on to Anywheresville, U.S.A.!
So, I came back to my room, and decided that, before taking a bath and soaking my aching bones and replenishing my spirit; I was going to light a candle(which I always travel with to eliminate the fragrance of every 'hotel room'), and put on some headphones and listen to a cassette I had made of various James Taylor tunes. My 'instructions' to myself were: Just listen to ONE tune and then take your bath. Well, I was, of course, in a non-smoking room, and there were no ashtrays, so I didn't really have a 'safe' recepticle in which to place the candle. But, of course, I knew that I was only going to listen to ONE song, so what could be the problem? And so, stupid me, I placed the candle on top of the complimentary GE clock radio, put on the headphones, closed my eyes, and began to listen.
Well, I don't know what happened to the time, but the next thing I knew, the "smoke alarm" went off signaling a fire, somewhere. Of course, I awakened in shock, and with my heart POUNDING, because I was so startled by all this. However, as I came to my senses, I looked to my left and, "Oh my God!!!" lo and behold, hours had somehow passed, the candle had burned all the way down to the clock radio, and it had caught on fire. More than this, the flames were now climbing up the wall behind the bed. MY ROOM WAS ON FIRE!!! Wow, I completely freaked, grabbed the nearest pillow, and began to pound the flames into submission. Lucky for me, I was somehow able to do it, once it had been squelched, I ran into the bathroom, got several glasses of water, and threw them against the charred wall too.
When I finally calmed down, I surveyed the status of my room, and just in that short amount of time, the room was covered in ashes. It was incredible. And, in the other comic sidelight of this event, I looked at the poor clock radio, and half of it was melted!!! The first thing that came into my mind was Salvador Dalí's famous painting with the "dripping clocks" entitled: "The Persistence of Memory." Others refer to those clocks as the "soft watches."
Now, I faced another obvious problem. HOW do I check-out of the hotel without getting charged a fortune for having totally "rock 'n' rolled"(totally trashed) my room? Of course, being a devout coward, I decided that I would lie(Steve, you are such a jerk!!!) to the person at the front desk, and just try to escape, even though they obviously had an imprint of my credit card. Well, as we entered the van that morning, it seemed that I had made my 'escape' without being charged anything extra. But wow, I was really nervous. Of course, once we were on the road to the airport, I couldn't resist telling all my bandmates the story of what had happened to me during the night. Everyone was convulsed with laughter, because this kind of thing NEVER happens to someone like me!!! But, it did!!! Everyone took their shot at calling me a "pyromaniac" and worse!!! This lasted for days, weeks!!! One moment of stupidity, of complete carelessness, and I could have burned down the hotel, and accidentally killed myself, and who knows how many other innocent people!!! I felt like an amazing moron, an idiot, a schmuck!!! You name it, I was all of those things!!!
Of course, the story was not over. Some weeks later, I received a 'bill'
from the hotel and I had to pay for the now Salvador Dalí-style electric clock-radio, and for damage to the room. I paid the charges and the story was finally closed. But, I felt very guilty and embarrassed by my dishonesty. I think that the lesson here is rather obvious, but, to those of you who are musicians, and who travel, and to those of you who are not, and simply travel, DON'T ever do what I did. Be careful, and never do anything stupid with fire, or with a cigarette. Remember this too, that "smoke alarm" saved my life!!!
- REMEMBERING JFK On the 40th anniversary of the assasination of President John F. Kennedy, Steve offers his remembrance of just where he was, and what he was doing during those 3 days in November of 1963.
I vividly recall being at University High School in West Los Angeles, California, and walking towards Mr. Libenson's French class. I remember someone running by me and telling us that President Kennedy had been shot! Like everyone else in that moment, I thought that it was some kind of cruel and stupid joke. However, when I arrived at the bungalow for my class, there was an unusual sense of quiet, and Mr. Libenson sat in stoic silence at his desk. I had never seen him quite like that. As my French teacher, he had me totally terrified!!! After a time of quiet, he rose, and began to speak to us. I had never heard him speak like this, so much emotion, fire, and passion in his voice, and especially his words. I remember as his extemporaneous speech rose in intensity, he actually said the words, "They killed him!" As a young, and not particularly politically worldly person, I really didn't grasp the gravity of those words. And then, for the first time, the only time, I saw tears in his eyes, and his voice choked with emotion. I had never seen any of my teachers like that. I never saw any them like that again. It was very moving, and obviously unforgettable.
Like everyone else in the U.S.A., during the hours and days which followed, I was glued to our television set. I had never seen respected newsman, journalists of great dignity on the verge of tears before: Walter Cronkite; Huntley and Brinkley; Frank McGee, and many others. And, like the rest of our nation, I desperately wanted to know how this had happened. Did a man named Lee Harvey Oswald really kill the President all by himself, in a moving car? HOW could this have happened in my country? I remember the following Sunday morning, sitting in my father's library, by myself, and watching the TV, waiting for the Dallas police department to transfer Lee Harvey Oswald. Then, all of a sudden, I was actually witnessing a man being shot, killed, right in front of my eyes on 'live' television! HOW could that be? I couldn't possibly realize that this moment would send our nation into 40 years of feeling deprived of possibly knowing what had really happened during those days in Dallas; and perhaps during the days, weeks and months leading up to that moment. We would never really know what information died that morning with Lee Harvey Oswald.
I am obviously not alone in being of the opinion that there had to have been other shooters that day. That Lee Harvey Oswald was, as he stated himself, just "a patsy." I'll never forget the first time I actually visited Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and went up to the 6th Floor of the Texas School Book Depository; and then, stood close to the window [You are not allowed to stand near "the window"!] where one 'shooter' surely was. It seemed like an impossible shot to me. And I, of course, know nothing about guns and rifles. Then, I went down and stood behind the fence on the "Grassy Knoll" and that seemed like such an 'easy' shot! Being there brought back all those old feelings to me. Time seemed to freeze for a moment. Like so many Americans, more or less of my age, I too feel like "hope, and our national innocence died" that day in Dallas; and that we, as a nation, as a people, have never been the same since!
On the other hand, I am now reminded of a couple of things which my father always used to say:  "The key to life is 'paradox.'" And, , and I'm going to be quoting him rather loosely here, "Just because an event seems as though it must be totally impossible, improbable; that is the very reason why it can be, and therefore is! Real life is just like that!" So, in his view, this is precisely why Lee Harvey Oswald could have made all those shots, and did do it......alone!
But then, after spending an afternoon watching the entire documentary series: "THE MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY" on the HISTORY CHANNEL, it is impossible for me to adopt my father's curious wisdom. Oh well, you'll have to decide for yourself.