Gary James' Interview With Dennis Tufano Of
He's the man singing lead on all the classic Buckinghams hit records, "King Of A Drag", "Don't You Care", Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)", "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and "Susan". And now he's doing a solo act. We are talking about Mr. Dennis Tufano.
Q - Dennis, you do a tribute show to Bobby Darin.
A - Yes.
Q - What do you like about Bobby Darin?
A - Well, that's a long list. It happened a long time ago when I was in high school. One of the reasons it came full circle for me here is that in high school I was pretty much inspired by Bobby Darin. He was one of the guys back in the late '50s, early '60s when I was in high school that was coming out with a series of hits that were a little bit different from one another. From "Queen Of The Hop" to "Splish Splash" and all of a sudden "Dream Lover", then "Mack The Knife". I was really interested by the fact that this man wasn't doing the same thing over and over. I felt his voice, his interpretations of the songs was so authentic in all the genres that he was doing as opposed to just covering something. He really was authentic in his interpretation of the songs. It's really one of the reasons I became a singer I think amongst all the people, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, but his thing got me. What sealed the deal for me with Bobby Darin was Dick Clark used to have the Beech Nut Spearmint Gum Show. It wasn't the Bandstand show. It was kind of a concert show. Kids in the audience and they came up on the stage. Bobby Rydell, Paul Anka, all those young guys were dressed up in suits and acting like they're much older, singing their hits, came on the show. Then the curtain opened and there was Bobby Darin, no shirt on, sitting in a cardboard cut-out of a bathtub, singing "Splish Splash", scratching his back with a brush. I just thought the sense of humor he had with the music got me. So, that really sealed the deal for me. I really became a fan of his. So then we come full circle to maybe nine years ago (2006), I was really thinking what can a singer do, what can an older singer do? You can't go jam with people to keep your juices strong. You gotta come up with your own show. So I said Bobby Darin was always one of my guys. I'm going to look into his repertoire. When I dove in I was overwhelmed with the amount of recordings that he did in that short period of time. He died at 37 years old for God's sake. It's like he did so much during that period of time. He did five genres of music basically in all his work. He did Country, Folk, Rock, Blues. He wrote some great Blues songs that I do in the show. He did the standards. He did unbelievable interpretations of the standards that had his mark on it. I realized since I loved him so much and I loved what he did; I was actually at my sister's house in Chicago and I was talking about this. She had a Bobby Darin CD on and I was singing along with it as I was walking around the house. She then confronted me. "Do you realize the tone of your voice fits right in with his? There's something kind of nice about it, the way it fits in." I said I never thought about that. That took me to the next level and I came home and worked on what songs would fit together. That really was the beginning of me putting the show together. I debuted the show in Los Angeles at the Key Club on Sunset Boulevard. Two nights sold out. It was like people were blown away because I used a Big Band to back most of the stuff 'cause of his sound. People were blown away. I was really surprised at the response because you don't hear a lot of Bobby Darin music. He died young in '73 and he couldn't at that point on been another (Tony) Bennett or (Frank) Sinatra. His music kind of faded away and everybody else took off because he wasn't around to promote it. So he kind of got lost. People were craving it from what I realized singing his songs. I even do half of my Classic Rock show as Bobby Darin because it fits into the same genre and the same time period. So I give 'em my hits and Bobby Darin and Rascals songs I love to do, the songs I was inspired by basically. I try to keep things kind of close to what got me going in the first place. So that's the Bobby Darin Show. It's kind of like a musical documentary. I interject some information between some of the periods that he recorded and why things changed and how he made some moves. It turns out to be a pretty nice show. It looks like I'll be doing it Fall (2015) into next year. I've got some offers to do it at casinos and performing arts centers and some cruises even. I'm happy about that. It's really a good show. I always fit my hits into the time line because it's the same period. I start out by saying I was inspired by Bobby Darin and then right around '67, when our records came out, is when he got a little bit sick and had to take some time off because of his heart problems. That's when our records came out, so I give them our hit records at that period. I close the show with a little more Vegas return of Bobby Darin because that's what he did after his little hiatus.
Q - Are you walking on stage trying to look like Bobby Darin?
A - No. There's no impersonation at all. It's not like an Elvis or Neil Diamond or any of the popular guys that are being done now. I don't think you can impersonate Bobby Darin. I think that's why no one has ever done it. I present his music to the best of my ability exactly as he did it with as much of the arrangements as I can do because that was all part of what he did. What I do is I sing as me. I was asked by the Bobby Darin Foundation about a year after I was doing my show, after seeing videos of my show, I got a call from Billy McCubbin. He was Bobby Darin's bass player for seven years before he (Bobby Darin) died. I knew who he was 'cause I had dome my research in reading about Bobby. He said, "Look, we've seen your videos. We're doing this concert for the Heart Association, for the Darin Foundation. We'd like you to come sing because we like the respect you give to Bobby Darin's music when you sing it. You're not making him a lounge lizard." A lot of people make that mistake and make him a Bill Murray character. So they invited me to do the show. They brought me into the fold and there I was on stage with his bass player and guitar player. It was a pretty high moment to be on that stage with his players and having them root for me. So, the essence of my show is my respect for Bobby Darin and what he did. Through that, it kind of like channels Bobby Darin a little bit. I'm trying to be as close to the music as I can without imitating him. I think we have the same kind of entertainer gene in our system anyway. I was always that kind of guy. So, I think it's a nice combination. It's not an impersonation, it's kind of a tip of the hat to everything he did. His fan club was there at the show. They all thanked me for keeping his music alive with respect. I think that was the phrase that really got me. And that's what I intended to do. I didn't want to make it a circus. So, it's been very fulfilling. His repertoire is just genius. I just came back from Tennessee and did a multi-act show with Chuck Negron, The Cowsills, Roy Head. It was an amazing show. I did "Mack The Knife" as a closer for that show and they went nuts. It's just amazing how his music reaches out across and breaks all genres. Here I am at a Rock concert doing "Mack The Knife" and people love it. So, I feel good that I've got that package of work to work with. As a singer, there's only so much you can do. I only had five or six hits. I want to be able to mix other things in and show what my diversity is. I'm not just a guy who sang fifty years ago on those records.
Q - Five or six hit songs is pretty good. There are guys out there who have built a career around one hit song.
A - I know. (laughs)
Q - As the lead singer on The Buckinghams' songs, were you singled out for all the media attention? If so, how did that go over with the other guys in the group?
A - It's a good question. That situation didn't happen quite that way. I was singled out for interviews because I was the voice on the records, but because it wasn't Dennis Tufano And The Buckinghams as Tommy James And The Shondells or Gary Puckett And The Union Gap, that was discussed in the early days. I actually said we should just be a band. In retrospect I probably should've said something to bring myself out because then at least my name would've been carried along. Nowadays I have to actually prove who I am sometimes because not everybody remembers who the lead singer was. Actually, when I say Buckinghams to people, they say "What records did you do?" When I say, "Kind Of A Drag", they sing it to me. So basically I use the titles of the songs instead of Buckinghams. We always used to say let's be a band. I think everybody knew what their position was in the band. They knew I was the front man in the band. Nobody complained that I was. That's who I was. Now, moving forward with Carl and Vic in the '80s, reforming the band and then me being singing out there again, there's been a little friction on that end of it. I guess they feel I shouldn't be out there doing it because they're doing it. I'm not really being The Buckinghams, but I can't really escape history. I think we've kind of worked that out already. They were kind of worried about it. People would say, "You're not The Buckinghams, he is!" I never had a problem with them being The Buckinghams. I actually gave them the blessing when they said they wanted to do it. I was already a solo act. I said, "Hey, you go out and do it. You've got my blessing. Use the name. Do what you want to do, but make it good." So, I really didn't have any angst about it. But there was a little bump about fifteen years ago (2000), not from them, but mostly maybe from their representation. They felt a little threatened that maybe people would think the original singer is out there and it would hurt their bookings, but the fact is it never did.
Q - Did you write "Hey Baby" or "Kind Of A Drag"?
A - No. "Kind Of A Drag" was written by James Holvay who was the guitar player in a band called The Mod in Chicago. He heard us play at a Dick Clark concert. That was a Cavalcade Of Stars kind of thing in Chicago. The manager we had at the time, Carl Bonafede said, "Jim, you're a good song writer. You heard this band. What do you think?" He said, "I heard them sing. I heard them play. I think I have a song my band won't use. It might be good for them," and he gave us this little three inch reel to reel tape. It was him playing acoustic guitar, singing "Kind Of A Drag". He gave that to us and we took it home, arranged it and got it together and how we would make it work, recorded it and that's where "Kind Of A Drag" came from. Now, "Hey Baby", "Don't You Care", "Susan", were all written by Jim Holvay along with his other partner in the band, Gary Beisbier, who co-wrote some of the stuff in those songs. So, the four of our hits were written by the same people except "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" which was Joe Zawinul and the lyric bt John "Guitar" Watson.
Q - Did you record those songs 'live' in the studio?
A - In the early days we went in and did all the basic tracks, bass, drums, guitar and keyboards and I would be in a vocal booth, singing along. That would make it cohesive. Everyone could hear where everything went. It didn't bleed through. Sometimes the vocal became the lead vocal and sometimes we would go back and do another vocal because the intention was to make the vocal right in there. So, they had a guide track all the time listening to the vocal. Then I would go back sometimes and re-do the lead vocal to make it better. Now with The Wrecking Crew documentary coming out, people are asking me all the time, "Gary Lewis said The Wrecking Crew played on all his records. What about yours?" I said all of our singles except "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", we were supposed to record. We were on the road learning it. We were supposed to come back to Los Angeles to finish the album. Our producer, James Guercio at the time said Columbia was rushing the album up and they needed to get to the two or three tracks we hadn't done yet, done. So, he had them go ahead and record it and some of the people that played on it were The Wrecking Crew. So "Mercy" was a pre-recorded song and a couple of other album cuts. But all of our singles were done by the band.
Q - What month did "Kind Of A Drag" come out in?
A - It was released in November, '66. We were signed to USA Records as sides. They signed us to eleven sides or something. "Kind Of A Drag" was sitting there all the time and we kept saying, "You gotta release this record. There's something about it that's different." They said, "No. We don't like it." It didn't have the power and hit sound that they wanted. They kept releasing these more up tempo things that we had recorded. We kept saying, "We play this song live and people love it. We even listen to it and we get a chill. There's something about it." They said, "No, no, no." So, it became the end of our contract. That was the last side and they had to release it. So, the released the song and they released us from the label. "Kind Of A Drag" was released in November of '66, all by itself. No big fan fare, but the radio stations picked up on it because we had three regional hits before that, "I Call Your Name" by The Beatles, "I'll Go Crazy", a James Brown song, "I've Been Wrong", a Hollies cover that we did. So, we had these regional hits that we were building around giving us three states, four states, five states. When "Kind Of A Drag" came out, radio stations were already familiar with us, so they picked up on "Kind Of A Drag" and by February of '67 it was number one.
Q - In 1967 the music had changed. By the Summer we had "Sgt. Pepper" and The Doors "Light My Fire". The music had taken on a harder edge. So you weren't surprised when "Kind Of A Drag" became a hit that year, were you?
A - We were surprised because we were dropped by the record company. They didn't like the record. (laughs) We were just hoping for the best. We thought the record was kind of orphaned really because it didn't have the backing or the record company, a full-on backing. We were concerned. We loved this record and it may not make it into the ears of everybody else. If you don't have promotion you could lose. We loved the song. We kept pushing for it. The keyboard player who played on "Kind Of A Drag" and on that first album, because they dropped us, said "I don't think this is going to work out." He wanted to be a chiropractor, so he left music.
Q - (laughs)
A - So we were sitting there without a keyboard player and without a record label, wondering what we were going to do. We're now talking about getting a keyboard player. We were having one of our meetings in Nick's basement in Chicago and Jon Poulos, the drummer and our band leader, he started The Bucks, he came down and had this little grin on his face. We're like, "Jon, c'mon. We've got a problem. here. We don't have a record label." He threw a Cashbox on the table and opened it up to the Hot 100. "Kind Of A Drag" was number one. He said, "Okay, our song is number one. What do we do now? We have no manager. We have no record label. We have no keyboard player. What do we do?" So then we jumped into gear. That really gave us a jolt. That's when we found Marty Grebb and he became our keyboard player and from there we found Jim Guercio through a friend. In three months we were already asking Jim Holvay for another record and he gave us "Don't You Care".
Q - I laughed when you said your keyboard player became a chiropractor because I maintain there is no other business where people applaud you, other than show business.
A - I don't remember any checkout people, "Hey, nice bagging" or "Thanks for ringing up my order." The coming together of audience and artist is very important. Without one or the other it's like no music or it's a rehearsal without the audience. You need that energy. From the very beginning of the band when we first started doing this I got hip about what part the audience played. I got very fascinated with the contract I was able to make as the front man with the audience and the attention they paid to the music being played to them. That part of it always got me, and it still does to this day. I really relate to the audience on a one to one level all the time. It's a comfort zone for me.
Q - Did you do a lot of road work behind your songs and where did you perform?
A - Oh gosh, yeah. In the early days we had ourselves a little Dodge van and we packed all the equipment in it and we set up the equipment in the van so we could sit. We didn't have any extra vehicles. (laughs) We would drive all over the place. We'd go to Duluth. We'd go to five states actually, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois. We covered that for a year and a half, almost two years while we were doing our local records. We were running around playing all these ballrooms, all these little places, VFW halls everywhere, high school gyms. We played a lot. We started to get really popular. In '65 we had a really good break. There was a local TV station in Chicago, WGN TV, still very big now. They had a 'live' music show they were doing called Alltime Hits. They had a Battle Of The Bands contest for the Rock portion of the show. They had like a Broadway singer, a Standard singer, Pop singers. They didn't have a Rock band section, so there was a Battle Of The Bands in Chicago and we won. At the time we were called The Pulsations. We won the Battle Of The Bands and during rehearsals they asked us if we would mind changing our name to something more English sounding, because of the British Invasion. We just said we're local, but it doesn't matter. We could change our name and it would be fine. So, a security guard was sitting there overheard the conversation about changing the name. The next day he came in and gave us a list of names. He said, "I just thought I'd jot some names down for you." "Thanks!" We look at the list and there were some great names on there, but The Buckinghams jumped out because it was one word, simple, and we have a fountain in Chicago called Buckingham Fountain in Great Park which is a landmark. It's a gigantic fountain. We said, "This is great. We can sound more English, but also keep one foot in the Chicago roots and still be who we are." And so, we changed our name to The Buckinghams. This show, we did thirteen episodes I believe it was and we would do 'live' versions of whatever the the top song was that week. There's actually about four or five of 'em on YouTube already. Somebody has posted 'em and they're pretty good quality too. We're wearing gold tuxedos and all kinds of stuff. (laughs) Pretty interesting. That show got us out to seven states. The WGN signal went out everywhere. That really was a big part of getting us out there and making us kind popular as a band. That gave us a little heads up on a lot of the other groups 'cause they weren't televised.
Q - I thought the end to this story was going to be the security guard became your manager. But that probably didn't happen.
A - (laughs) No, it didn't happen. He actually became a friend and he just passed away two years ago (2013) He was a young guy and had suspiciously long hair for 1965. So, he was kind of in the forefront of the whole movement that was starting to happen. That's why he had some pretty hip ideas about what to do.
Q - Once you you had your hits, you weren't traveling around in a station wagon, were you?
A - Oh, no. Once "Don't You Care" came out we were flying. We were doing all the colleges. We used to joke around we never went to college, but we played all of them.
Q - Who was booking you? William Morris?
A - William Morris was our agent at the time. They were the top Rock agent at the time. We were everywhere. There were a lot of tours with five major acts. It's actually coming around to that again. We used to go out there and it would be Paul Revere And The Raiders, Tommy James, The Rascals, The Cowsills, us. All those bands were headliners in their own right, yet we were all together in these packages, playing all the time. In the colleges it would be us and Dionne Warwick or us and Simon And Garfunkel. It was interesting packaging. We flew every other day. Sometimes we'd fly in and rent a car and make it our hub and do four or five gigs. We worked a lot. We were on the road for about two and a half years.
Q - In your travels, did you ever bump into Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison?
A - Yeah. In New York, a wonderful memory I have is there used to be a place called Steve Paul's Scene. It was a nightclub in a really strange part of New York. Columbia used to give us limousines when we'd come into town because we were either doing recording or promotion when we went there. When we'd get time off we would safely get there in a limousine and run into the club. It was like everybody that was in New York that played would go to the Steve Paul Scene and jam. We saw Morrison up there jamming. We saw Jimi Hendrix playing up there. There was a great Canadian band that was kind always playing there, like almost the house band, called Mandala, who were really great. That's who people used to come in and sit in with. We saw Rick Derringer play from The McCoys 'cause he was ensconced in New York at that time. It was a pretty great scene there. That's mostly where we used to see things. We did see Hendrix play his regular concert in Baltimore 'cause we were playing the night before and he was there the night after, so we all stayed to watch that show. So that was a great moment. For the most part we were always working the same time other people worked, so we only had moments like that to stretch out and see people.
Q - There was a time then when you parted ways with The Buckinghams. Did The Buckinghams stop altogether and re-form down the road? Why did that happen? Were you tired of the road? Was there some in-fighting among the band members?
A - None of that. We disbanded in 1970 due to litigation and being ripped off by our management.
Q - I hate to hear that.
A - Yeah. The last year and a half of our career was all litigation. We were in court and it cost all of our money. We were fighting 'cause our money was taken from us and we were trying to get our money back and at the same time working and whatever we made at work we paid the lawyers off with. Our pockets weren't as deep as the management so we could only go so far and then we had to stop. It was really hard. The last year of our career was very, very depressing. We were all going to get the money we were working for, for like two and a half years, for selling records and doing concerts and we all decided it would be a nice gesture if we went out, got some money and kind of helped our parents with their homes, to pay off some of their payments. We all went in to get our money and it wasn't there. It was a big shock to the system and that started a horrible series of events, lawyers and everything else. Through all that, by 1970 we all just looked at each other and we said what we're doing now is stretching to get work. Our manager not only took the money, he also poisoned our relationship with Clive Davis at Columbia Records. He did a lot of things to manipulate us. It was a very strange feeling. He took a band. We gave him a number one record. He built on that. We gave him all these other hit records and then he destroyed the band.
Q - Did you ever get any money?
A - No, because all the money was spent on lawyers. I ended up personally with I think after all that fame and fortune with $13,000 when we stopped playing. The first one to actually leave was Marty Grebb because we knew we weren't going to be working. Everything was falling apart. Our record label had given up. And "Susan" was in the charts at the time, which is the most amazing thing, doing very well and yet the record label, which wasn't true, said there was a drug problem in the band which made Clive Davis very nervous and so without investigating he just turned off on us. There was no drug problem in the band. So we had to fight to clear our name on that too. But it's not a very unique story.
Q - You're right about that. I hear horror stories about managers ripping off artists all the time. Isn't there a way it can be stopped?
A - The magic word here is loopholes. This is what we found after the fact, the loopholes in the law. You have to realize that lawyers were not as wonderful and shifty in the '60s and plentiful. Now people say there's too many lawyers and they're always messing around and they always have a way out. It's all loopholes. What happened back then in the music industry is most lawyers didn't understand music law, 'cause it wasn't that popular yet. All of a sudden this hit happened. There was a few of 'em that started to throw out some loopholes and make things work without getting hurt. So, they were able to steal and take on a legitimate basis because of loopholes and then cover it later. This is what we found out later. It still happens today. It's even more sophisticated today. People go to law school specifically to be loophole lawyers because it's a very lucrative career. You can make a lot of money doing it. If you ever read Tommy James' autobiography Me, The Mob And The Music, it's the same story. (laughs) Almost every Rock 'n' Roll book I've ever read is the same story with different names. And it happened in that period. I think a lot of people got hurt by it. We lost a lot of artists. They kind of like got very depressed and deteriorated. I'm very grateful that a lot of the people I knew and myself have bounced back the best we could and kept alive the music which is what we wanted to do. You can't cry over spilled milk. You just gotta learn from your mistakes.
Q - The groups from the '50s and '60s that got ripped off by whomever is incredible. One has a hard time comprehending how much money never made it to the people it should have.
A - Oh, yeah. Big money. Big, big money, especially in the mid '70s and beyond because money doubled then. I don't know if it was devalued so it looked like more money, but it was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the '60s, millions in the '70s. It changed drastically. When I go out there now and work with all these acts; I work with Jay And The Americans, The Happenings, The Belmonts, The Reflections, these are guys that came way before me sometimes and they all went through their stuff too. Some of 'em recovered. Some of 'em had the means to either afford to recover or beat the system from the bad guys and then keep going and evolve out of that. And some of 'em really lost it. We had no representation. We played to the point where we had no money for lawyers. So we had to then give up and walk away. When we're on the road we all talk about it. We all have the same story and now we laugh about it. It's kind of bittersweet. Even the current Pop groups, or as I call them, the track singers because they don't really sing anymore, they sing to tracks and they have twenty-seven dancers. Even those groups are being ripped off and way into $500 million dollars. It's just a perfect kind of business for people to get their hands on somehow and fool people somehow. We tried to renegotiate our artist royalty from SONY Records when they took over Columbia because there was a certain period of time when you were able to go in and renegotiate. Well, because they've got thirty-seven lawyers working on the same thing. We went up to renegotiate because in today's money system with what the cost of living is, that percentage is meaningless for artist royalties. And so, it really is little pocket change. If it was adjusted to meet what the cost of living is, it would be substantial. There was a point where we went to Columbia Records and said, "Hey, we haven't gotten any royalties. The CDs are out there and they're selling. How come we don't get any royalties?" They said, "Oh, let's check." So they checked and they went, "Oh, yeah. There's about $40,000 here." We said, "Why wasn't it distributed?" "Oh, we didn't have a correct address to send it to." We found out that is a legal loophole that all companies use to hold on to the money so they can spend it. Whatever you find out, you beg for it, you get your money back. The other loophole is, we said, "It seems like there should be more than that. It's been a number of years." They said, "Our records only go back to, or only legally have to go back to seven years." So there's like another fifteen years that there was royalties collected that they don't have to claim to us.
Q - And there's nobody to go to the record company to represent you in those years and get the money.
A - You got a manager at the same time who's ripping you off and you're telling him, "Can you please check and make sure we're taken care of?" And he's saying, "Don't worry about a thing boys." (laughs) You just go on with your life and try to be creative and move on. That's what a lot of us have done. I'm grateful that we did. We're still alive and healthy and somewhat sane. We haven't lost our minds over it. I know a few people who have and some of 'em are gone.
Q - In today's world, you can probably work as much or as little as you want, can't you?
A - Well, kind of. I'd like to think we have some kind of credibility and history that gives us a calling card for it, but there's an awful lot of '60s bands out there and there's an awful lot of work out there. That is in the last ten years and even more in the last five. Tribute bands are becoming more popular than the real bands. People who are still alive have tribute bands, which is a little scary to me. I understand the tribute bands work for less. They kind of give you a rendition of that music you want to hear, but I've seen a couple of tribute bands that are supposed to be the better of all the tribute bands and after about ten minutes I lose it. I just don't get it 'cause it's not the people. It's not just the songs and the music playing at you, there's an essence of that person that's not there in a tribute band. When I was in the wings in Tennessee watching Roy Head do "Treat Her Right", I was thinking to myself, I don't think I can watch anybody else do this. Roy Head is an iconic figure. Anybody who's created that sound with their own body, you want to see that person doing it, not somebody pretending to be them. That takes a lot of work from us too, because they're playing our music.
Q - Are you saying there's a Buckinghams tribute band?
A - No. I don't think there is a Buckinghams. Somebody told me there's a Buckinghams tribute band someplace. I haven't really seen them. I've looked on line. It's a strange thing, tribute band syndrome. I'm having a nice little run of work. I would like to work more, but I would like to have time to perform. A lot of the shows I'm offered, I get to do twenty minutes sometimes, which is hardly enough to put your tie on for.
Q - It's back to the days of Dick Clark's Caravan Of Star tours.
A - That's right.
Q - You got off the bus, you do three songs, you get off the stage and the next act goes on.
A - Yeah. And that's okay when you're young and starting out. You can pop in and pop out. After you've been doing it for fifty years like I have you want to perform. Thirty-five minutes for me is as little as I would like to do. At least I get a chance to roll a little bit. Usually, if it's a shorter show, you just have enough time to do your hits. That's okay, but that was a long time ago and I've been singing for a long time. I'd actually like to show what else I do, what my range is as far as singing. Of course that's where the Bobby Darin material comes in. You see much more than just the hits. You see another range in what I can do as a singer. I think as a performer that's all we really want to do, just perform. I like to work, but sometimes I can't take every job that's offered to me. Either the routing is not good or there's not enough time for me to perform. I don't like to travel for two days to perform for ten minutes. Plus, I'm sixty-eight years old now, I mean, I feel like I'm nineteen when I grab the microphone, but traveling is very difficult today. It's nerve wracking. It's tense. They pack you in. The whole experience of getting to the show, as B.B. King said many years ago, "You don't pay me to play, you pay me to travel."
Q - I've heard that said many times by many people I've interviewed over the years.
A - Yeah, and it's really true. What I went through this weekend was just ridiculous. On the way to Tennessee the connecting flight was delayed. They put us on the plane, but then they took us off the plane. We had to wait for an hour for another plane. Then on the way home it was ridiculous. It was twelve hours at the Memphis airport, the wing that we were in, all the restaurants closed at 6PM. That's ridiculous. There was no food. We were stranded. We were all eating protein bars, borrowing protein bars. Whatever somebody had in their luggage. It was ridiculous. At sixty-eight, you don't want to be in that position too many nights. It wears you out.
Q - You don't want to be in that position at any age.
A - Yeah. (laughs) That's exactly true. When I look back at the schedule we were on when we were nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, you had to be that age to do it. You were resilient. You had unlimited energy. We worked every night for two weeks sometimes, with two days off for traveling. And we didn't care. We had a ball. We hardly slept. We were so excited. There was so much energy being generated that it didn't bother you that much. I like to perform and do as much as I can do and then talk to the audience later. Everybody has these stories connected to the music that you did. And we didn't have stories back then. There were just beginning to be stories. Sometimes we're sitting there tearing up together, sitting at the table at the Meet And Greets. They're telling stories. I had no idea that three minutes of something we did would affect people as much as it did. What we're getting, and I get this wherever I go, these are not perfect strangers. We've never met before. We have been virtual friends for over forty-eight years. What's weird is when they come up to the table and they shake your hand and say, "It was so great to hear the songs again and hear your voice singing." Then they tell you the story. They tell you which song is their favorite and what it connected their lives to. Some people say we saved their marriages. Some people say they heard "Hey, Baby" and called each other and said let's get back together like the song says. It's just amazing to me. They become teenagers again. There's a look in their eye and a smile on their face. It takes us all back to that time. They always say, "Thank you for taking us back to the '60s again. It was a great time." I go, "Thank you for letting me come back with you. Every time I grab that mic and sing those songs I go back too." I'm actually grateful because the music that we do, thanks to Jim Holvay, those songs hold up today. I can sing those songs as an adult male, whereas before I was this young kid and it still has the same weight and meaning and genuine kind of sincerity to it. The lyrics of our songs hold up. When I sing them it feels like they're timeless to me. I can sing them with who I am now. I'm having a great time singing these songs over and over again. They're great.