Podcast Transcript

Takin a walk. I remember I had a development deal with RCA records, and I said, well, I’m going to finally get my record deal, you know? It’s like, you know, I’ve been doing this my whole life, you know? And I remember BMG music bought RCA,

and they dropped 40 of their signed acts, and all of the development things, which was the category I was in, they dropped everything. So it’s like things like that where it’s like, you know,

you’re holding on for dear life. It’s like, why are you holding on for dear life? I can’t quite explain that, but it’s something that starts in childhood. Welcome to the Takin a Walk podcast, hosted by Buzz Knight,

inside stories of musicians and their craft. This episode, singer -songwriter, musician and producer Mark Ribler, a man on a mission to celebrate great music.

Mark discusses his cool video project celebrating Dick Cabot. And he also talks about his work with Steven Van Zandt, serving his  band leader for his Disciples of Soul project,

which is prominently featured on a new HBO documentary, Disciple. Here’s Buzz Night and Mark Ribler on Takin a Walk. Mark Ribler,

possibly the busiest man in show business. Welcome to the Takin a Walk podcast. We’ll be Taken to walk down memory lane virtually but so nice to get to meet you oh this is fantastic buzz i’m so glad we got to do this today how do you find enough hours in the day from all the projects you work on um you know it’s uh it’s very interesting um being a musician you know my entire life and it’s the struggle has

always what do you do with you know with with downtime so whenever there’s downtime it’s like oh man you start you know you start getting nervous i got to get a gig i got to you know i got to be more proactive and then you know then you’ll establish you know like the next let’s say the next few months you’re okay i’m busy every day and then you’re like man i really i love a break right now but you got to

be careful what you ask for either you know because it’s it’s always feast or famine it’s oh it’s It’s never been, you know, like I’ve always been striving for balance in the music business or in my life,

really, you know. So I’m seeking balance. Right now, it seems busier than it is, although I like to be busy.

I like to, you know, keep my mind and my creativity engaged. My mind’s always engaged. I like to have the creativity to kind of distract me from thinking too much.

So you moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey at what age? Nine. Yeah. And that was a shock because I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn in Sheepside Bay.

So my friends were, they were black and Puerto Rican and Italian and Jewish and Irish and I moved to a town called Jackson, New Jersey.

And it was, you know, I never really experienced, it was kind of, it was white bread. It was like there was a couple of black kids. There was a couple of Jewish kids.

And everyone else was, you know, looked like my Irish friends in Brooklyn or my, you know, it was just a very big adjustment because I never experienced, and of course,

all my friends weren’t Irish, but, you know, like my next -door neighbor, my good friend was German and Irish, and I had, you know, friends that were more, you know, just a different perspective on life.

And I never, and also I never heard derogatory terms towards different ethnic groups, you know. So I never experienced prejudice until I moved to the smaller town in New Jersey.

So it was a huge shock because I didn’t, you know, my parents, it was a very liberal household. I didn’t, I didn’t, I never heard, you know, those expletives about any cultures.

And so to hear it, it was very, it was unnerving, you know, at a young age, you know, and And I struggled with it, and I really wanted to move back to Brooklyn. And then I found a couple years later,

I found the guitar. And that kind of gave me sort of sanctuary. You know, like that gave me a place where I could go that was safe, where I could channel my, you know, my angst and my,

you know, the questions I had about life. I could channel it into my music. And somehow answers would come in some kind of spiritual lessons. Now, did Brooklyn get to shape you at all musically while you were there?

I think, well, I grew up listening to W .A .B .C. A .m. Radio in New York, which was pop radio. They played, when I was a kid, they played the Jackson 5,

the Rolling Stones, James Brown. They played, you know, there was instrumental pop songs, you know, Tijuana Brass. So it was this incredible melting pot of popular music.

So I was influenced by all of that. So I didn’t start playing music. I mean, I would only sing with my little Victrola in my bedroom for those kids out there,

Vectrola. Actually, Vectrola was the the RCA, you know, with the big horn and the wind -up 78s, you know. But, you know, we had like a little, a little turntable,

and we would play our 45s. All the songs we would hear on W .A .B .C., we’d go to, you know, Corvats, E .J. Corvettes, or, you know, the local department store and buy 45s.

And, you know, and we learn every word, and we would sing along. So I didn’t start playing guitar until I moved to New Jersey. So, but I was very influenced by the the musical vibrations that were happening in in Brooklyn at that time.

So what sort of cemented you to be so connected to music and how old were you when you felt that first connection? I was 11. I remember the day like it was yesterday.

We were visiting my my cousin, my cousin Stephen, who still lived in Side Bay, Brooklyn. So when I’d go back, it’s like, oh, man, I just want to move back here.

I just felt so, I felt this placed, you know. So I’d go to Brooklyn. Anyway, one day, it was December of 19, early 70s, like 73 or 72 or something.

And I walk in his room and, and there’s a guitar in the corner. And I said, man, what’s that? He goes, I started playing guitar. And it just, it was like the Holy Grail.

It was like this thing was just kind of shining this light from another plane, another world, other worlds. And it was calling to me. And he was a couple years older and I always,

I guess I really looked up to him and the fact that he was interested in it made me even, you know, made me gravitate to it even more so that’s when i you know that was the day that i feel like my life changed it’s like there was this guitar in the corner of the room and it turned to be the holy grail and the thing i would do forever and as you’re telling that story in the background you’ve got uh the lovely

guitars that i could see so that’s such a special story uh that you’re telling and that i’m able to sort of see the guitars in the background that’s awesome yeah man yeah yeah that’s that some of them you know they’re uh the tools of the trade that uh you know i’m in my recording studio so that’s sort of like that’s my pal you know my my toolbox yeah how many of those uh bad boys do you have um probably around

60 yeah in different rooms in the house you know um and i have some really great old ones from like the 60s and,

you know, like an old Fender Stratocaster and Les Paul and an S .G and ES 335 and 345 and, you know,

the country gentleman, the George Harrison guitar from 1961. Yeah, so those are sort of, they do a special thing, you know, and they, yeah,

they kind of have a life of their own. It’s beautiful. What was the first guitar you ever bought? Okay, so when I first started playing,

my parents, I guess they were, you know, they didn’t know if I would really stick with it, you know? So we went to a local music store and we rented a guitar. It was a Gianini.

And I owned it, I rented it for about a year and then we just, we purchased it. So it was a Gianni Acoustic guitar, which is not a very popular brand, but my first electric guitar I got when I was 13.

It was Gibson Les Paul, which I still have. And I wish I didn’t, I never took a chisel to it, but I put three, I put a hole in it because I wanted three pickups,

and I wish I’d never done that. Because it’s, it, It served the purpose, but it was never the same, you know. We had this character named Skunk Baxter on the podcast some time ago,

and as you probably know, he was always into reverse engineering guitars and sort of creating different effects with the engineering and stuff like that.

Are you someone who did that as well? As a kid, I did, Yeah, yeah. I had some friends. My dad was an electrician, so I had a little bit of electronic knowledge from him.

And I attracted a couple friends, a close friend of mine, Joe Rayo. Joe would, he was a mad scientist, you know, probably not quite at skunks level,

but he became, as he got older, he got into skunks level designing! the skunk, you know, he’s like a, he’s a real, he’s a rocket scientist. He’s actually a scientist,

an engineer, right? He’s advises the government. That’s right, right. Aspects of sort of, I think, well, he didn’t tell me what it is. Yeah, yeah. Because he’d have to kill me.

You’d have to kill you. But he made reference to the fact that he is still doing work, and that was as far as it went. and I didn’t want to push him. Right,

man, right, right. Yeah, he couldn’t, he literally could not tell you. Yeah, that’s, I, someone had told me that years ago, and I was like, it makes sense, man. I mean, you know, just his intellect,

you know, and, but yeah, he was, he would take, I guess he would take his instruments probably as a kid like I did, and he would make holes in things and try to create something, make something into something else,

the thing I realized is that when I put the hole in my less pole is like, I really wanted a stratacaster, which has three pickups. And it did, you know, a three pickup less pole is not a stratacaster,

you know. They’re quite different animals, you know. It’s more about the string length than the amount of pickups. It’s like the distance between the bridge and the pickups and which creates this tone and the types or woods used and stuff,

you know. But yeah, skunk, skunk, I love skunk. I was an influence of mine when I was a kid listening to Steely Dan Records and Doobie Brothers, yeah. So how did you end up at 17 to get into the record plant in New York City for session work?

Well, It’s a very interesting thing. And I was talking earlier about being proactive. So I was at this point in my life, I dropped out of high school.

There wasn’t anything offered in music. There was nothing to keep me in high school. And I probably started playing in clubs when I was 15 years old, playing with guys that were much older to me,

like 10 years older, and they were full -time musicians. And my mom really struggled with it, because she really wanted me to go to college. Like, my parents didn’t go to college,

but they wanted the kids to, you know? So there was an ad in a weekly paper in New Jersey called The Aquarian. There would be like a musicians want ad section,

you know, musicians wanted, like the classified section. And this band Nightflyer from New Jersey, we were looking for a guitar player. And this guy,

Ron Orlando, he was a singer -songwriter. And as it turned out, the guy that was mentoring the band, producing them, was a gentleman by the name of Paul Prestapino,

who became one of my first true mentors in the music business. And Paul, unfortunately, he passed away last year at the end of last year.

He was in his mid -80s. But Paul would bring us into record plan. So I joined this band. I passed the audition and that weekend we went to record plan and my like my head exploded.

You know, you walk into, first of all, it’s this amazing wooden carved door. You open the door and it’s all, you know, it’s platinum and gold records of all of all your favorite bands.

It was Johnny Winter and Arrowsmith and Jimmy Hendricks. They recorded Electric Ladyland at a record plant before you open the studio. So I was just like in, I was a kid in a candy store and we just started making our demos to get a record deal.

And Paul was producing them. And we would go in on what was called spec time. You know, we would, if we got a record deal, we would pay our bill. but Paul was the,

he was the house maintenance engineer. So he would repair all the tape machines and mixing consoles, recording consoles. And he was also an amazing musician.

He played with the Chad Mitchell Trio. He played banjo and he would play all string instruments, mandolin, guitar. And when John Denver joined the Chad Mitchell trio.

Paul was with the band auditioning John, and they realized that, well, this guy has a really special voice. So John joined, and then him and Paul became best friends. So when John started his solo career,

just before Country Roads and probably shortly after, Peter Paul and Mary recorded leading on a jet plane, John asked Paul to be his musical director to go on the road with him.

And Paul, at that time, was working a record plan for about six months, and he realized, this is my home. It’s like, it’s an hour from where my family is. You know, I guess he was tired of being on the road away from his family.

So he became like the guy. Anyone you talk to that it’s, you know, from John Lennon, you may rest in peace, to bruise, to Stevie Van Zan. They They all know Paul.

Like, Paul was like the, you know, the heart of record plan. You know, he would, he’d be either fixing things or playing on people’s records, playing on Arrowsmith records and Johnny Winter Records and his records,

yeah. So he became my mentor. He must have intersected, and you as well, with the great Jack Douglas, who was on the podcast, I’m guessing. Absolutely.

Yes, yeah. In fact, I love that podcast. That was one of the first Buzz Night podcast that I listened to. It was, yeah, Jack and Paul were best friends.

And, you know, Paul was around when, you know, when Jack was recording Arrowsmith, and, you know, I’d hear all the stories, you know, like we were in there, we started in 1979,

but they would talk about Jack recording Smith in Studio C, and he would, they would put a blanket over the VU meters because Jack,

Jack got his sound. He was saturating the inputs. Like he was, like, basically the meters were pinned. They were just smacking against the wall, you know, and at some point they break also.

So they would cover it so people wouldn’t be like alarmed at like, you’re murdering the mixing console. no man I’m creating this listen to the sound listen to the saturated sound of Arrowsmith you know it’s like those are amazing sound of records and Jack pushed the limits you know yeah so who are some of the other folks you ran into at the record plant while you were there Joe Perry was recording there at the time

he was doing the Joe Perry project so we would see Joe there Guys from Kiss would kind of be in and out. Johnny Winter, I think, just did still live and well.

Southside Johnny just did a couple records with Stevie Van Zanthair. Bruce had just finished Darkness on the edge of town, which they had like 70 songs recorded for the album,

but he couldn’t release anything because he was because he was in court with his manager. I guess he had a problem with Mike Appel. So he didn’t release any music for a couple years.

But, yeah, you never knew, like, you’d just be sitting in the lobby and, you know, Yoko would walk in, or, you know, it was just like the museum of rock and roll,

the living museum, you know. If those walls could talk, what would they say? Man, it’s good to be alive.

Now, where did you first meet Stevie Van Zamp? Interesting. You know, we grew up, I grew up playing at the Jersey Shore.

Stevie grew up playing at the Jersey Shore. We had so many friends in common. I’d never met Stevie. I met Bruce in the late 70s.

I used to see him at the Fast Lane and the Stone Pony. He’d be hanging out. We used to open from different acts there, and we’d have certain nights with the featured artists.

So I’d met Bruce a few times. Anyway, I think it was 2014. I was called, two of my close friends, Rich Mercurio and Lee Nadell were playing on the Stevie’s record that he produced for Darlene Love,

introducing Darlene Love. I was called to play on the very last track that they recorded, which was a Bruce Springsteen song, Night Closing In. And we just hit it off.

You know, we started talking. I was very close with a mutual friend of ours that had passed away a bunch of years ago, Kevin Kavanaugh, who was the original keyboardist in Southside Johnny and the Esberg Jukes.

So we started talking a little bit about Kevin. And then we recorded the rhythm tracks and most of the band had left. And I spent like probably eight hours. Stevie was creating a Phil Spector production on this song.

So he was creating a wall of sound, but it wasn’t at media where they, you know, where they would have all these, you know, like this huge room with, you know, four guitar players playing Bolero,

you know, 12 -string acoustic guitar rhythms and, you know, two bass players. So basically he was having me, I would do four tracks of acoustic guitar and and 12 string electric guitar and he was having me do all these overdubs and as quickly as he would ask me to play something you know i’ve been i’ve been playing my whole life i was able to you know interpret what he was hearing and we just hit it off you know

and about six months later he called me to be to put a band together for darlene love for uh her her her album release parties. And maybe a year after that,

he called me to put a band together to do one show at the London Blues Festival at the O2 Center. And then we went on the road for three years.

We made a record, and so we became really close rather quickly. You know, it’s almost like we made up for lost time not knowing each other. And How much fun is that working with him?

Man, well, one thing, he’s hilarious. He’s one of the funniest people I know. He’s one of the most generous people I know. He’s like your, if you work with Stevie,

you quickly realize that he views us all as family. Like, you know, we’re on the road. After shows, we, you know, he always takes us all out to like a beautiful dinner and We talked down the show and he’s really about the,

you know, the family environment, you know. So, I mean, it’s some of the best, you know, recording and touring years of my life have been with Stevie, you know. It just makes it,

you know, makes it a joy to be around. You know, of course, there’s stress and challenges that, you know, you meet. I mean, he has very high, you know, his quality meter is very high,

so people have to live up to these standards. But if you’re the right person for the job, it’s a challenge that you want. You know, you grow from it.

You know, you grow as a musician, as an arranger, just from, you know, being in his presence, as a producer. So when you’re the musical director for Little Stephen and he’s out doing Bruce’s work,

does that mean you won’t hear from them about projects or any particular ideas, or will you? There’s always something going on. You know, he’ll call me to co -produce,

like we just co -produced this band, the Cocktail Slippers there from Norway. They were actually in a couple of Lillie Hammer episodes and really, really great, all -female band,

you know, so we just recorded a couple of tracks for them a few ago um and we’re always doing he’s always calling me for things i got out of the blue or like last december before he went out with bruce we um uh darlene called me no no he called me to do uh we did a tv show with darlene for her christmas thing uh the view and you know the view on channel seven in new york which she was doing with her band

for years but She asked Stevie and the, you know, so Stevie called me to get the band together for that. A couple of weeks I’m doing the American Music Honors, which it’s the second year. So it’s from the Springsteen Archives.

They’re building a museum at Monmouth University. And so last year they had the first awards night, and they honored Darlene Love, Sam Moore,

from Sam and Dave, Stevie, and Steve and Steve Earl. So he said, get the band together, you know. So, you know, so we played songs with each of those artists.

And then in the middle of organizing that, he said, go find me a soundstage. So I can, we need to record four songs live on a soundstage for my upcoming documentary.

So I made some calls. And, calls, and that four songs turned into a 28 song set at the Count Basie Theater two weeks later. So we do the American Awards,

and we went right into doing two shows at the Count Basie Theater for 28 song live DVD. So it’s like the guy’s an alchemist, you know, he says he plants the seed,

the seed grows into a, you know, a cornfield, you know, Not just like one ear of corn, you know. So now I’m preparing for the next music awards coming up on April 24th.

And they’ll be honoring Jackson Brown and Mavis Staples, great Mavis Staples, John Mellencamp and Dion. Yeah, so we’re getting that together now.

And Stevie will be involved. He’s going to be one of the presenters. Yeah. I got chills. Give them our best. I love Stevie. I will, man. Yeah, yeah. And of course, he’s from Boston.

I know. Yeah, we’ve broken bread many times and it’s always been a wonderful experience. In fact, as you were describing the Darlene Love Project there in 2014,

I flashed back to being with him as he was fiddling around with, you know, engineering yeah absolutely yeah he’s uh he’s a wizard of sorts yeah he is a wizard yes absolutely we’ll be right back with more of the taken a walk podcast welcome back to the taken a walk podcast so tell me about the creation of the song dick cavett yeah and And ultimately,

the filming as well of that amazing video, it’s absolutely stellar. Thanks, friends. It was one of those,

it was one of the most auspicious occurrences. You know, being in the business, as you know, it’s like, you know,

you grow up, you know, you’re a kid and you know you watch TV and it’s like man you know wouldn’t it be amazing to you know to play with Paul McCartney it wouldn’t it be you know amazing to be on you know the Johnny Carson show or the you know the Dick Cavett show or you know the Mike Douglas show you know so I was I was finishing the album the last actually the last song in the album was Dick Cavett so The

song essentially is about, it’s about a 14 -year -old kid trying to figure out how to get laid. You know, it’s like, there’s something, it’s like the kids saying, there’s something I need to be doing just as a biological thing that needs to happen in my life.

And his girlfriend is, you know, she’s like curious, but it’s like they’re 14 and they have no idea how to make this happen. Ice cold shower in the midnight hour. I love that.

Exactly, man. Yeah, eat some apple jacks, you know, and take a cold shower and put the TV on and watch Dick Cabot because it ain’t happening tonight, you know?

Yeah, so Dick was like, it’s like, what TV show? It’s like, okay, I had the, you know, I had the whole story. It’s like, but what show is it? And it’s my favorite show as a kid.

I mean, my parents used to watch Dick have it. Dick had all our heroes on. He had every cultural icon in the Renaissance of our lives.

The 60s was real, like Stevie calls it, the Renaissance, you know, the rock and roll renaissance, the film Renaissance. It’s like that period, you know, it’s like Truman Capote,

the Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, you know, the Vietnam War, you know, the Freedom Riders,

you know, the Chicago 7, it’s all, all this is going on. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier. And he was at the epicenter. Dick had everyone on, you know, so it was the most, I mean,

it was thrilling as a kid to see his connection with these people. Like, Muhammad Ali was one of my heroes, you know, as a lot of kids. And just to see that when he was with Dick Cavett,

they had reverence for each other. Like there was total respect. Dick understood somehow, even though he was a kid from Nebraska, he understood the plight of the African American.

He was empathetic towards it. He truly felt a connection to people that struggled, you know. Groucho Marx, you know, which was Dick’s hero.

He became like a father to Dick. They were best friends, you know. So it’s like, okay, okay, this is, this song is called Dick Cavett,

you know? And we finished the record, you know, we, I mixed it, we had it mastered. And I just started having, I started, it was a dream. It was literally,

I was dreaming. It’s like, I got to call the label. It was in my thoughts. I got to tell Stevie, I got to call the label. Somehow, we got to get Dick to hear the song. That’s all,

that’s the only thing I really want that I want the dick to hear the song. About eight months later, and I never said anything to anybody. My family, my girlfriend, my, you know,

the label, Stevie, just in my thoughts. I get a call from, I don’t know if you know Rich Russo, he’s a radio disc jockey and he’s been working for the underground garage and Stevie a few years.

He calls me out of the blue. He says, Mark, he said, first of all, I want to apologize. I want to apologize advance in case I overstep my bounds.

I said, what are you talking about? I’m like, what is he talking about now? He says, well, I got an advanced copy of your record. And he says, I love that song, Dick Cavett. And a friend of mine is,

he’s Dick Cabot’s guy. He does, he directs all his documentaries, you know, the Ali Cavett documentary, the Groucho documentary, which I’ve seen all of them. I, you know, I’ve been so, in the last 10 years,

I kind of got re, totally reconnected to Dick Cavett, you know? And he says, my friend Robert love the song. And I go, why are you apologizing? I I said, you’re a magician,

you know? Rob’s going to play the song for Dick. Keep your fingers crossed that he likes it, you know? Great. Rich calls me a week later. Dick loves the song, and he’s invited you and the band to his house,

to his home in Connecticut to make a music video. I mean, you know, pinch me. Wow. Yeah, yeah, just one of those Buzz, it was one of those surreal things that you could only be in a dream,

you know? It’s like, of all things, you know? And then he was so gracious, man. He invited it. As soon as I met Dick, I understood why Muhammad Ali and John Lennon and Yoko and all these people,

they felt like they were in his home, like on the set. He made them feel Like they were, you know, they were completely welcome and they were family, you know. And that’s how I felt.

And he made the entire band feel that way, you know, he made everyone feel that way. And his beautiful wife, Martha, they just, you know, they open their doors. And it’s like, yeah, you guys are here. Let’s have a great time,

which we did. And I feel like I made a friend that day. And then he invited me back with my friend Robert Bader is his guy that directs everything and uh rob said you know we’re gonna go to dick wants you to come to the house we’re gonna do so i’m interviewing dick dick dick’s interviewing me i’m like you know it’s just one of those unbelievable things man yeah and he seems in great health in great spirits in

great health yeah yeah his uh his mind he’s as sharp as ever he’s hilarious and uh you know it The funny thing is, he was as excited about someone writing a song about him as I was about him loving the song and wanting to participate.

It’s like, you know, he’s 87 years old. You know, he hasn’t exactly been in the, you know, in the news every day. And this is a guy that was on television every day for, you know,

what, 30 years or, you know, he was involved in TV since the beginning, right? Jack Parr and the Tonight Show, you know, writing with Woody Allen. And then to have,

you know, like many years where he sort of, you know, I mean, if I put myself in Dick’s shoes not feeling relevant, you know, not feeling vital, you know, and connected,

you know. So, I mean, just to see him so elated about something, it was just like this beautiful win -win, you know. And he was on at a time there was only three networks,

right? Yeah, that’s right. There was, yeah, NBC, NBC and CBS, right, except for… Think about that. Local Boston and New York stations, which were, yeah. And at that time,

it’s like there could be a Muhammad Ali story. You know, there could be now, nowadays, there’s so much, as you know, there’s just so much noise and it’s like this you know there’s so little oxygen for it for things as in those days it was like we here’s all the oxygen you know just breathe you know like like here develop like create a life from this oxygen you know now it’s you know it’s it’s really it’s really

challenging the business now and you got to you know you go trying to reinvent the wheel of how, you know, how to, you know, continue being productive and proactive and making a noise in a sea of noisy chaos,

you know? Well, bravo on the song and bravo on the video. Everybody should check out both who’s listening to taking a walk because it’s really joyous. Thank you,

brother. Thank you, man. So, as you know, we have another podcast we produce hosted by this wonderful person named Lynn Hoffman that is a mutual friend of both of ours as well.

And it’s about really the, you know, sort of the healing powers behind music and what it really means to fans of artists and to artists themselves. And I know you went through a period in life that had,

you know, some health challenges there for you. Talk about what music means to you, especially in light of when you’re going through something challenging like you did.

Yeah, yeah. First of all, I want to say that Lynn Hoffman is one of my favorite people on the planet. I love her dearly, and she actually made our introduction buzz, and I want to thank Lynn,

you know. Me too. I’m really enjoying this um so um and you know i can attribute it to being you know being in this business you know this music business of ours and um and just person you know it’s like you you really have to have a really you know a really tough shell because it’s very hard not to personalize things when you’re your!,

your music to a record company, and or, you know, you’re allowing yourself to be so vulnerable, and, you know, you have to have to have to have a thick skin and you have to, like, learn to deal with rejection.

And, you know, so there was a, it was a period in my life. There was a lot of challenges going on. I, I remember I had a development deal with RCA records.

And I say, wow, I’m going to finally get my record deal, you know? It’s like, you know, I’ve been doing this my whole life, you know, early 90s. And I remember BMG music bought RCA and they,

they dropped 40 of their signed acts and all of the development things, which was the category I was in, they dropped everything. So it’s like things like that where it’s like, you know,

you’re holding on for dear life. It’s like, why are you holding off of dear life, I can’t quite explain that, but it’s something that starts in childhood, you know, this need to express ourselves and to prove ourselves to the world,

whatever happened to us as children. Anyway, so being in the business all these years, you know, it’s like everyone processes stress differently.

So I found out, you know, and I was like in this dark period of like, man, what is, what’s my purpose, you know? And I remember I just, I moved to Lower Manhattan in New York City,

and I was actually, I was playing on the streets. I had an acoustic guitar and a battery powered amp, and I had a buskers box. I met this guy that was in charge of the music at the South Street Seaport.

He was playing outside. My dear friend, Joel Kaminer, May he rest in peace. Joel was playing music and he invited me to come play with him. And I played and he said, so basically when I moved to Lower Manhattan by the South Street Seaport,

I would play music outside every day for tourists. And one day I’m playing music and I’m like, my stomach’s not feeling good, you know? Anyway, I just from going through whatever,

I had an Achilles heel And it was being challenged at that point. And I realized I had to go to the doctor and I developed ulcerative colitis. So I was vegetarian at that time.

I didn’t really believe in allopathic medicine. I didn’t believe in drugs and going to doctors. I would use alternative doctors. So I started going alternative doctors and I would get results.

My colitis would go into remission for a little while, and then it would, it would exacerbate again. Finally, two years later, after trying, this, that, and the other thing, nothing working,

I, I was losing weight rapidly. I went down to like 100, I’m about 180, 185 pounds. I went down 140 pounds. I go, wow, I’ve got to go to the doctor. And with colitis,

you know, there’s, you’re bleeding, You know? So I lost a lot of blood. I went in the hospital. You have ulcerative colitis. You’re going to have to take these drugs for the rest of your life.

Like, oh, man, I don’t want these drugs. And I resisted, you know. Anyway, I spent four months in the hospital. They gave me chemotherapy to,

because it’s an autoimmune disease to shut down immune system, right? They, I needed 12 units of blood while I was in the hospital. Finally, one day the surgeon comes in and he says,

I have this surgery that I think can, can save you, can, you know, because you’re, this isn’t getting better. So I agreed to the surgery and the guy, the guy saved my life. Everything turned around. But it got,

I went to, I went down to a heart and 10 pounds. And I was in the hospital for four months. And In the corner of the room, I couldn’t, I didn’t have the strength to play it, but I had a guitar in the corner of the room.

And that, the vision of that guitar kept me, you know, kept me going. It’s like, I’m going to get back to this, you know, it’s like, I’m going to get, and going to get, and going to go and going to a health crisis where you’re,

you know, where you really, you know, you get close to leaving this place and you realize how unimportant certain things are and how important other things are.

Your relationship to family and friends and your appreciation of life is, you know, it’s, you become,

you know, you become much more realistic about, you know, the things that you let get you down and realize that as long as you’re alive in this hope,

then anything can happen, you know. That must have had an impact on you in terms of what I see you doing often where you’re sort of like this good shepherd through New Jersey communities in terms of their needs at certain times for charities and things of that nature.

Did that time shape you towards those sort of actions that you still, you know, followed through on today? Yes, I think,

you know, being an artist and being a musician, you know, there’s a, I would say I’ve always been sort of sensitive to the plights of people, but I would say that it increased my empathy and,

you know, and my wanting to help when people are in need, you know, whether it’s, you know, like, you know, like when we got hit with Superstorm Sandy, you know, we would do these benefit concerts and,

or, you know, we would go, my friend Tim McClune has this great organization called the Holiday Express, where we’d go around Christmas time and just play for kids in the hospital and less fortunate people,

you know, homeless, the homeless. And it’s like, yeah, it’s like giving back is, it enriches, you realize how much of a gift in it is when you, you know, when you’re able to give of yourself.

the return is completely eclipses, you know, the amount of giving, you know, it’s like the gift is in the giving, yeah. My sense is,

though, you’re somewhat, I wouldn’t say quiet about it, but you’re, you’re very low key about your approach to it. It’s just in your heart. Yeah, yeah, I would say it’s a reflection of my parents.

My parents were always very empathetic and generous towards people and they instill that in me that you know it’s like you have to care for you know your neighbors and you know you need to be sensitive to you know to what people go through you know if you’re fortunate you know you have a roof over your head you know eat three meals a day it’s like you know there’s people that aren’t as fortunate and you need to do

it do what you can when you can you know or when it’s needed yeah What did your parents do for a living? My dad was an elevator mechanic.

So he worked in New York City, and when we moved to New Jersey, he would wake up at 4 in the morning. He was on the bus at 4 .30, and he would come home at 6 .30 at night.

So he was in the city. He was out of the house 14 hours a day. And he was an And he was, when he was home, he was very present for the family. And so I think I learned,

I got my work ethic from my dad. And my mom growing up, she always had odd jobs. She would, like, she would do sales, like phone sales. And she’s a real people person,

you know. So she was a great homemaker and housewife, as they were called, in the 60s and 70s. And she, you know, great provider also.

And just instilled that, you know, just caring for people and showing by their example that, you know, this is a good way to be. What was the first concert experience for you?

Johnny Winter, June 1st, 1974, Madison Square Garden. Yeah, it was, it was, I remember,

in fact, my dad drove me and my cousin, who the guitar player, he drove us to the city, and he drove us to the garden, and he dropped us off, and he picked us up after the concert, and it was Johnny Winter was,

you know, one of my heroes, guitar heroes. So, yeah, it was amazing. Who else was on the bill? Do you remember? Yeah, it was golden earring open for them. Yeah.

Oh, no, I’m sorry. It was like 10 NCC. Yeah. I’m not in love. Yeah, big boys don’t cry. I think that was their hit then. Sure. How about Fillmore East experiences for you?

I’m at the age where I think by 74 was the first concert I went to, and the Fillmore East concerts are such an important part of my development as a musician and as an artist,

because I was so influenced by those iconic concerts like, you know, the Band of Gypsies Live and the Allman Brothers at the Film War and Neil Young and Aretha Franklin and all these great artists that,

you know, Miles Davis, but I was too young to attend. So I, that’s one of the things I regret that I, I guess my dad couldn’t drop me off there when I was 11 years old,

you know, to see those shows. But I have so many friends that have gone to the shows and we’ve talked about it and I’ve of course grew up on the records, you know, the famous concerts that were made into vinyl from those shows.

So it had a tremendous impact, but I never attended. And how about some of the other hangs in the village that you might have seen some great acts as you were developing?

We used you know, at the Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways, a lot of the Bleaker Street clubs. But it kind of,

it was, it was sort of like, like Stevie and Bruce used to go to the village. That’s how they became friendly. They would ride the bus to the city together, and they would,

but Jimmy Hendrix was playing at the Café Waugh then, and, you know, James Taylor was playing, and so I kind of, By the time I was playing there, it was more guys that were…

I met a lot of sidemen, like, you know, people that ended up in David Bowie’s band or in Sydney Lauper’s band, but I wasn’t… There wasn’t as many sort of iconic stars at their beginning that I was experiencing.

You know, maybe, you know, I remember later on, like in the 90s we used to play, like John Osborne would always be on bills with us. And, you know, there were people that later on became famous. But I started playing there like in the mid to late 70s.

So I think I missed a lot of the heyday of Gleger Street and the West Village. What do you think the state of the music business is now? It’s,

man, it, I think it’s very sad that corporations are buying up the publishing of all the iconic artists.

And, you know, since I think, I think what happened was in 1998, when the industry didn’t embrace Napster, that this is, this trend, it’s not a trend, this is,

this is the future of, you know, kids, you know, having or people having all this music library and and then giving it away for nothing. Or,

you know, they were stealing music, you know. I used to make a living as a songwriter. I mean, I still make some living as a songwriter, but a primary part of my income was from songs that I had cut by different artists or,

you know, things I had on, you know, on, you know, if a TV ad or something in a film. And what’s happened is, There’s a couple,

you know, like this, there’s a, there’s a few corporations that are, that have bought up all the music. It’s like Amazon has the market on, you know, there’s other companies that do it,

but they’re the monopoly sort of, or it seems like a monopoly, they’re not. But they figured out, well, people don’t want to leave their house to go, you know, food shopping or to buy a shirt. So we’ll just deliver to their house,

you know. It’s an amazing business model, but a lot of people, their businesses are hurt and affected by it. Just like if,

you know, back in the day, if you had something, if you had a song featured in a film, you know, maybe, you know, you’d get $10 ,000 to $50 ,000 for replacement. Now,

you know, kids, you know, they have so many people have home studios and they’re submitting music it’s like they pay you know a few hundred dollars for songs that are in feature films now so it’s like it’s affected that um people not buying records you know but companies like spotify and these streaming services people they buy the subscription they don’t they’re not buying the records anymore so it’s really hurt you

know the sales of of uh of of um cds or or downloads and albums you know so it’s caused people like me it’s like to have to think out of the box it’s like well how am i going to make a living and it’s you know it’s touring it’s um you know just just thinking you know reinventing the wheel you know but it’s uh it’s created a struggle for a lot of people that were you know made a living for many years doing

one thing and now it’s it’s the wild west i know we probably don’t have enough time for this complete answer because you’re always working on so many damn things i say that lovingly but what do you work on that you want to talk about um well right now uh about 90 percent of my energy is on this uh american music honors uh the springsteen archives music music awards in a couple weeks.

So that really excited about. I’m actually, I’ve been working on music with some various artists. As it materializes,

I’ll be able to announce who they are. But I’ve been actually something I’ve never done, but working on a Christmas album. So that’s something that I actually, a couple months ago, I spent a lot of time in writing a body of work,

and now we’re figuring out the next step with that. And, you know, still going out and playing some original shows, you know, playing Dick Cav, that song,

and doing some tribute shows. You know, we just did a Watkins Glen tribute from the, you know, the Watkins Glen concert from 1973,

the Allman Brothers and the band and The Grateful Dead. So that was fun. We did that Friday night. So yeah, Something that you hadn’t dreamt of yet,

dream of it right now. Who would it be with living or dead? Man, that is, well, I would love to get back out on the road with Stevie.

You know, I had the honor of being Darlene Love’s musical director for a couple of years and actually singing duets. The first time I started saying I had to sing a duet with Darlene.

It was like I had to pinch myself, you know. You know, I mean, we played in London. Paul McCartney came on the stage, you know. It’s all these surreal things. So I’m just,

I’m leaving, my imagination is always running wild. And I’m in the process of manifesting. I don’t know what it’s going to be,

but it’s going to be something that I’ll be pinching myself. Mark, I’m so grateful to meet you and to have you on the podcast as we… Thanks for listening to this episode of the Taken a Walk podcast.

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About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.