Sharing your talents and passion to the world is a way to express your gratitude and create value for others. You can always take the time to find out who you are and who you want to be. Legendary frontman Huey Lewis joins us on The Rich Redmond Show today! Huey Lewis is the lead singer for the band ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ and plays harmonica for it as well. Recently, he appeared on the ABC television series, Dancing with the Stars. What’s surprising is that he didn’t consider himself a singer even after all the success he has with music. Dive deep into this episode and learn a lot from Huey’s real life experiences!
My cohost, sidekick, co-producer, long-time friend Jim McCarthy, JimMcCarthyVoiceOvers.com, is joining us from Music City. Jim, I always say I’m excited about my guests but this is a big one because this gentleman has been part of the fabric of American pop culture as a frontman, musician and as an actor for decades. Huey Lewis, how are you doing?
You’re making me feel old.
It creeps up. I had a big birthday, the big 50. When you were on your trajectory enjoying all this massive success, the Back to the Future, the gold records, the preferential treatment and the limos, I was fifteen years old. Jim may have been ten. You’re the soundtrack of our youth.
I was about 4 or 5 years old.
You’re celebrating a lot of milestones. The band has been together a long time. We’re years for Back to the Future. I don’t know if you remember this about years ago where I saw you at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. Do you remember that show?
I do remember that show. It’s a beautiful building.
It has very nice acoustics. I went backstage with some of the Yamaha guys to talk to your long-time drummer, Bill. How long have you been playing with Bill? Is he the first drummer in the band? Take us back.
Bill and I went to middle school, wherein those days, it’s junior high. I’m in eighth grade. He was in seventh grade when we first met. We didn’t know each other. We’re different crowds. He, Johnny and Mario play in the band called Sound Hole. Sean and I played in a band called Clover. We were rivalry in bands for years. Clover got signed to the Phonogram Records in Britain, where we moved to England for two years. When that band broke up, I always like the way Billy played. I thought it was good to get out. It was natural. I took Mario, Johnny and Bill, me and Sean and then we got Chris as the guitar player. We were neighbors.
We wanted to give a shout-out to our buddy, Chris Cohen for connecting us with this. He said, “Make sure you bring up the fact that he used to tell Bill, head on, man.” It’s, I guess when we are on a trajectory. How would you define Bill’s drumming? He’s a soul drummer.
Bill was a very good drummer. He’s a swing and jazz drummer too. Bill is also a good musician. He’s a good player, a good singer. He had great ears. He writes. What’s nice about him is he lends that to his drumming. It’s not just he’s going to give you the rhythm. He plays the song. That’s a strong suit for him. I remember that gig at Schermerhorn.
Grow personally from your passion.
You got a new one out, Weather that dropped in 2020. I’m probably right in saying that you dropped that but you weren’t able to go out and support it because of this entire calamity in the universe.
I lost my hearing years ago. I lost my left ear. I’m actually having a good day now.
It’s 100% in the left ear?
My right ear, I lost many years ago. I only had 10% hearing in my right ear for years. I went to the ENT guy and said, “I lost my hearing.” He said, “Get used to it.” I said, “What? I said I just lost my hearing in my right hear. I couldn’t hear anymore. I’m a musician and a singer.” He said, “Brian Wilson and Jimi Hendrix had hearing in one ear.” I have hearing in one ear and I’m in a barbershop quartet. I existed on one ear for all these years.
Until January 27th, 2018, I lost my left ear. It’s episodic. I have long periods where I can’t hear anything. I have hearing aids in Bluetoothed to the computer and I Bluetoothed around. I’m very manageable with technology but I can’t hear music. It’s certainly not loud. Level was the devil. If a song comes out of the computer, I Iisten to it and it’s small and compressed, I can hear pitch and I’m fine but as soon as it gets loud or if I would jump in with a band, it’s cacophony for me. I can’t find pitch.
Is The News in your monitor band or a floor wedge band?
We’re all in ears, except for Johnny. Johnny’s never been in ears. He plays as a little wedge.
I had heard a story about Alex Van Halen on tour one time and how he started out on his monitor because back then, they had a massive monitor next to him. He was like, “I would start out around 3:00.” At the end of the tour, it would be on 10:00. Is that the same kind of situation over the years?
The music didn’t help. What I have is a combination of narrow eustachian tubes probably. I had a lot of as a kid. Loud music doesn’t help. I’m 70 years old. I’m not a spring chicken either. They call it Meniere’s disease. It’s a syndrome based on symptoms. If you have bouts of vertigo that last longer than twenty minutes but not longer than two hours and you have fullness in your ears, tinnitus and hearing loss sometimes especially in one ear, they call it Meniere’s. They don’t know what it is. I’ve been everywhere.
I’ve been to House Ear Institute, Stanford Ear Institute, UCSF and Mayo Clinic. I talked to Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Steven Rauch is the granddaddy of them all. Nobody knows anything about this. It’s one of those things they don’t know. Your ear is so protected and complicated. They can’t get in there. There’s no surgery possible. It’s weird. It’s its own thing. It fluctuates still. There are all kinds of cases where hearing comes back. A lot of people lose their hearing but 60% of the time, it comes back.
Has anybody approached you about being a spokesperson for the syndrome or public awareness?
Yes. I’ve done a few things but the problem is there’s nothing that can be done with this. I have a dossier of people that have sent me letters that have been cured or know somebody that’s been cured of Meniere’s. What happens is this stuff can come and go. Western science doesn’t know anything about it. Consequently, it’s rife with all kinds of theories. Sometimes their hearing gets better and they credit it to whatever treatment they just had. I’m having a good day. Go figure.
I’ve been playing with the same guys for years so you know that story of finishing each other’s sentences. It’s a pretty special thing. It could happen. My boss is like, “Let’s do the, he’s ready.” He’s like, “If it’s safe to go back tomorrow, let’s go do this.” We’re touring nonstop for years and then all of a sudden, March 13th, 2020, Live Nation is like, “Pull in the plug. We got to see what’s going on with this thing.” He would come up right to my crash, pull over my high, stick his ear up and he’s like, “It’s glorious. I want to lose my hearing. Come on, Richie.” The drum set is like the volume of a jet airliner taking off.
It’s those crashables. You say, “With my right ear level, I’m right at it.” I said it with Joe Cocker every day when we went out with him. His drummer is great. I can’t remember the guy’s name but he was loud. You’re right. They’re drumming and crashed them right there.
It depends on what era that was. It could have been Kenny Aronoff, the bald guy?
It wasn’t Kenny Aronoff.
I should probably know who played with Joe. It could have been Jack Bruno. He played with Tina Turner forever.
Maybe it’s Jack Bruno.
He’s a Nashvillian. He’s loud and funky. You talked about this one million times but I got this on the Wiki. You get a perfect score on your math SAT and you’re like, “Maybe I’ll go to school for engineering.” Then you’re like, “No, this is not me. I want to play music.” You’re backpacking across Europe. What’s the chronology there? Do you play a Hohner harmonica?
I did for years. I played Dannecker harmonicas. It was a guy named Antony Dannecker who worked for Hohner and makes these custom harps that are phenomenal. Hohner went absent for a while. They were just little toys for them and then finally, they realize that it’s a real instrument. Hohner is back on the case. They’re on some Taiwanese company. They also have guitars and everything but they got a guy on the case and they’re building good harmonicas again. They call it Crossroads and another, which is Marine Band Pro. They’re good. I play Dannecker harmonicas.
I used to play Sonor Drums and they were made by the same parent company that made the Hohner harmonicas.
Finally, it’s a proper instrument. That’s how we name it.
You fell in love with that instrument. Who are the people that gave you the music bug? I know it’s RnB and soul music.
My old man was a jazzer. He’s a doctor but he’s a drummer. World’s Greatest Jazz Band. He’d swing like crazy in perfect time element, bad time. He would put me on the drums when I was a kid at 1, 2, 3. We had a set of drums always set up in our living room, big band jazz. He would put me on the drums and make me scramble eggs. He said, “You got to have time.” He would tell me over and over again, “You can’t teach time. You got to have time. Where’s the crap you can learn?”
When I went to prep school, he and my mother split up. My mom was wild, kooky and hippie. My old man convinced me to go to prep school for four years, after which I got accepted to Cornell but at that point, he said, “One more thing I’m going to make you do and then you can do whatever you want for the rest of your life, don’t go to college. Not yet. Do it. Take a year off and bum around Europe.” I was already playing harmonica. When I got the harmonicas, it’s when my parents split up.
My mother rented a room to a boarder called Billy Roberts, who wrote Hey Joe. He was a folk singer. He had harmonicas when he played in the little Bob Dylan race. He gave me old harmonicas. I’d been playing harmonicas. When I go bum around Europe, I took the harmonicas and I played. I leave the absence from college. I went and basked around Europe. Then I went back to Cornell and joined bands. I went to Cornell for five minutes over a two-year period.
My dad was like, “Rich, you’re going to college. Don’t take a break. Just get it. When you get it, you’re going to be 21 years old and you have the rest of it.” That’s a pretty cool advice.
A lot of people don’t figure out what they want to do later on in life. You’ve been trained for this career that maybe you don’t really like. What happened with me is after I toured Europe, I’m basking and living by myself, playing music and I go back to engineering school at Cornell. I walk into physics class. I look around and it doesn’t look like a lot of fun. The decision was right there for me. I did well because I’ve been in prep school and had most of the stuff before. I didn’t really have to even go to class because I was in advanced placement prep school and stuff. I coast through the work until it caught up with me and I dropped out.
You didn’t have parents that said you need to have something to fall back on. That’s what we had. Your parents weren’t like that. They were like, “Go for it.” My brother and I, our parents were like, “That’s nice, the music thing.” My brother is a piano player, a huge admirer of you and your band. He had a question that he wanted to make sure was asked during the show. Our parents were like, “That’s nice. Go to college.” I was saying the same thing. I was there for about two minutes and I was done. You have to find out who you are and you take your twenties to do it. I would venture to say, you’d need to reach out to Mike Rowe and get in touch with him with that story. You two sitting down and talking about that, I think would be an amazing show. Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.
Did he quit college too to do his thing?
No. He’s trying to bring the trades back into the spotlight as a sexy alternative to college and saying, “Not everybody’s cut out for college.”
When you have to act as the person that you truly are. Let it show.
My old man said that a long time ago. He says, “If you want to be an architect or a doctor, fine but sure to that, not necessarily. You’re not going to be a white-collar person.” He believed that education was done from age 11 to 17. That’s important. He sent me away to prep school. I graduated 8th grade at 12 years old in June of 1963. In July, I turned thirteen and in August, I went away to prep school. For four years, coat and tie, all boys and neither one of my parents has ever been there. It was rocky but it was very good for me.
Take us back to Clover. Nick Lowe champions you. You recorded a couple of records and there’s a new documentary out with Phil, the frontman from Thin Lizzy. He apparently taught you the business of rock. Tell us about that a little bit.
Clover got signed by Phonogram Records and managed by Jake Revere and Dave Robinson, who also managed Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and Stiff Records. Before they hit any of that thing, Dave was managing Graham Parker and Jake had Nick Lowe. That was all. They put a partnership on Clover. Clover was a groundbreaking band for its day before I joined. They were long-haired country band. John McPhee, the guitar player is playing with the Doobie Brothers for years. He’s an incredible musician and a wonderful guy. He could play anything. They made a record in ’69 with overalls on, hair down to here, nudy shirts and 10-foot marijuana plants back of them.
This is when Willie Nelson had a coat and tie on for a Wagner show. This was early stuff, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Clover and The Ben Cote, that kind of effect. When we ruined that band, they made two records on Fantasy that never did anything. Those records were released in England on Liberty Records because the A&R guy with very interesting records distributed them to his bands. One of which were the Chilly Willy and the Red Hot Peppers, which was Nick Lowe’s outfit and those guys. They loved the Clover record but we had no clue. Clover lost the record deal. They were a club band when I saw them, the biggest club band around. I joined and Sean, the keyboard player. We ruined the band, to be honest. We were on this rhythm and blues kick. They were a great country-rock band.
We tried to make this rhythm. It was a mess for a while. I always blame it on Sean and me but we got signed by Jake and Dave. Nick Lowe was going to produce our record. They flew us to England to do it but the day we landed, punk hit. It was the wrong place, at the wrong time. We all had hair down to here but we saw The Punk explosion right before our very eyes from Stiff Records office. We had our first gig at the Roundhouse. I saw Sex Pistols. My first safety pin in the eye. It blew our minds for a year. What I loved about The Punks was that they were thumbing their nose at the music business. They said, “We don’t care what you guys say. We’re doing our own thing. We don’t care about you.” I thought, “How liberating.”
Clover, for years, has been trying to make ourselves look attractive to a record. Remember back then, you had to have a record deal. There was no internet and no jam band scene. There was only one avenue to success and that was a hit record. We kept grooming ourselves, doing showcases and trying to get these record labels to sign us. These Punks were mocking. I went, “That’s what I’m going to do. If this band never breaks up, I’m going to go back to my hometown. I’m going to get my guys who I dig, my favorite musicians like Bill Gibson and Johnny Colla. I’m going to start a band and we’re going to play for the hell of it. We’re going to have a ball.” That’s what I did.
Wasn’t the first record in 1980?
It came out in January of 1980.
I can hear a little bit of that punk influence where it has less horns and like driving.
There were some good songs on that record. I blame myself. The producer was the guy called Bill Schnee. He’s a wonderful mix engineer. He did all Boz Scaggs’ record. I figured that was my hedge against being too punk because I knew at the time. I figured I’ll push him as hard as I could. I said, “We got to get in there, cut it fast, live and boom like that.” That’s what we did. We got a little studio called American Recorders, where Richie Hawtin got, “Let there be drums.” First ever who mic up a kick drum was Richard Podolor at the American Recorders. It was a free channel, to begin with. We cut our record there. We played it two times too fast, cut it way too quick and it sounds like.
What city is that American Recording? Is that in Marin County or Los Angeles?
It’s near Fatburger on Ventura. It’s no longer there. You come over to Laurel Canyon. At Ventura, you go right. Right there is Fatburger and then the little American Recorders. Magic carpet ride was cut there. Richard Podolor has Fender Telecaster number 51.
It’s probably a strip of condos.
Richard Podolor went to grade school with Phil Spector. He’s a good producer, Richie. He cut a lot of early stuff. Him and Bill Cooper were partners. It was a great idea. What happened is it ended up sounding too fast and too small.
With the punk advent, were you a fan of Bad Religion? Were they a big influence on you too? They came up around that time.
I’m before that.
The Punk didn’t do too many vocal harmonies.
Musically, there was nothing there for them. It was not about music for me with The Punk. I just like that they didn’t care. My thing was this. I never sang any songs because I didn’t have a radio voice. It was the member of the ‘70s with the staff and everybody’s a tenor. I got this rough baritone stuff. I never sang in Clover because my voice wasn’t radiant. I said, “Screw that. If these guys can sing, I can sing.” That was the deal.
Was there somebody that was encouraging that say, “You should sing.” Was it Phil from Thin Lizzy?
Philip was very instrumental in a lot of that because he took me under his wing. I remember when we opened the Clover’s tour, we opened for Thin Lizzy as support. The first gig is in Oxford. The curtains down and it’s cheering Lizzy. We haven’t had a sound check. We’re plugging in the ramps like crazy trying to get ready to go and the curtain goes up to this. It was all we could do to play our set of eight songs and get out of there alive. Shoes were thrown at us and booed out. The first show in Oxford was brutal. After the last song, we learned never to go from song to song. No dead air. From the last song, I come off of the wings of the stage. Philip is standing there and goes, “Do you mind if I have a word with you for a minute?” I said, “I love to.”
He took me under his wing and started talking about our set, his fans and what people liked. What he taught me was not the biz. What he taught me was how to handle this stuff. Philip was a rock star and brilliant. He was sweet as a pie to everybody and had a big heart. He loved it. He was good at it and how to deal with the press, managers, crew, fans, all that stuff. How we handled all that was wonderful, I learned so much from him. I miss him every single day. I don’t know if you ever saw Thin Lizzy on stage. Nobody could touch Phil. He was the baddest guy I’ve ever seen on stage.
I was in Dublin and on The Square, they have a beautiful statue of him and I took a picture next to it. If people aren’t familiar with that music group, Jailbreak and Boys Are Back In Town are the two big hits. Everyone knows it from Pixar Toy Story. It’s a great and fantastic music. What a loss. Jim, do you got a question?
I only brought the Bad Religion aspect into it because they’re known for their harmonies. It’s so surprising to me to hear that you’d never considered yourself to be a singer. You have one of the most unbelievable harmonics in the history of rock and roll. That’s what my brother wanted to ask about. Did you warm-up? How did you stumble upon that?
We got lucky with a blend and interestingly, everybody in the band sings. We’re a real band. Our strength is as a band. Johnny does most of the vocal arrangement and he sings wonderfully. He’s a lead singer. What’s weird is that he’s third above me. He’s a tenor and I’m a baritone. We’re perfect but we have almost the same voice. It’s a weird thing. In fact, I went back and listened to our first album. I sounded Johnny Colla. I said, “Johnny, it sounds like you singing.” He says, “I know. It’s weird.” Years later, I’m lower down. It’s very interesting but we were blessed with that kind of a blend. Bill, the drummer, sings. He’s got the knife because he’s got a voice that pierces. It’s an interesting blend. It’s not a perfect blend but it’s our blend. We sound like what we sound like.
Do you guys warm up backstage?
That’s how we started singing acapella songs. We’d warm up and sing our own songs backstage. We got so sick of singing our own songs. We wanted to sing them twice. It’s riffing on chain gang or something. Then we put one in the set and it went down well. We started doing that.
Did I read correctly somewhere that you guys self-produced the Sports record?
Is it a true democracy? How were decisions made?
The buck probably stops with me but we produce it as a band, no question about it. “Why don’t you guys cut in the song? That’s not brain surgery. You’ve done it plenty of times.” What happened was after our first record, which was my fault, but it was produced by Bill Cheney. He took the blame and hit. I didn’t do anything but I learned a lot that time. On our second record, we auditioned a bunch of producers. By this point, I’ve made records with Clover with Mutt Lange. I knew my way around the studio real best. Johnny said, “We can do this. We don’t want to give anybody any points and all that stuff anyway.”
My manager believed in us and he convinced the record label, which is very rare. It was in the early ‘80s. If you were a record label, you didn’t let a band often produce themselves. Now, it’s everybody. You get the finished copy. They had nothing to hear but these crappy little demos. They let these bands do their own stuff. Our manager browbeat them into allowing us and they were 7,000 miles away in Chrysalis Records in London. He couldn’t control it. We did it ourselves.
Think about it. This is 1982. Sports is cut in ‘81, ‘82. It’s a radio world entirely. There’s no internet, no jam band, the CHR format is everything, Contemporary Hit Radio. MTV has started and exactly mirroring RNR Records’ playlist. Those hits in the early ‘80s are the biggest hits there ever will be. There will never be another hit that big where everybody hears it. CHR stations were banging it ten times a day in all the stations in New York. That’s what you had to compete.
We knew we needed to do that but we wanted to make those choices ourselves. I was worried that you get a producer and then you get something that you can’t stand. We aimed every song right at radio but we didn’t want them to be the same because we didn’t know what was going to stick. Here’s your rocker, ballad, country-ish, punk rock song. We knew we needed a hit single. We know we’re going to have five of them but we knew we needed one. That’s why we did those songs.
You guys did good. Those five are The Heart Of Rock & Roll, Heart And Soul, I Want a New Drug, Walking on a Thin Line and If This Is It. Good job, it’s self-produced. That is amazing. You know what it makes me think of as a Bay Area music fan? There’s another band that some people may have heard of, Tower of Power, a musician’s musicians’ band. You have a similar lineup but you are the guys that are household names. It’s like you were part of the fabric of pop culture and not so much. I don’t know the difference between the two, the decisions you made, maybe the management. Do you have the same management from back in the day this whole time?
We don’t have it. You’re looking at the manager. I’ve been doing this for years. We split up with our manager a long time ago. They’re playing really good. They’re good friends of ours. He wrote all those songs. Their stuff is super funky. There’s foie gras and then there were hamburgers. I’m unapologetic about being a pop music guy. That’s what we’re doing. This isn’t jazz. It isn’t classical. It’s popular music. Music is part of it but it’s only part of it. It’s more of a cultural thing we’re doing here. Otherwise, why would one record sell eight million and another record sell eight? It doesn’t make any sense. The nerves stuck there somehow and we’re all trying to reinvent that. A good part of that is the muse coming to you. It’s fortune. Also, recognizing when it’s there and all that. A lot of it is good fortune itself.
They’ll never stop. In the ‘80s when they came out with that record Monster on a Leash, I said, “Maybe they’ll crossover.” That’s still a band that can put all those butts and seats at a big venue in Los Angeles. It’s great.
It’s amazing that you mentioned that song. I gave that to Doug when we have a few drinks after the show. He has a monster. Some guys named their monster. He said he had one on leash.
You got so many great stories. That is so funny. There’s something about not over researching here. I stumbled on that one. There are two things that people in our audience would like to know about. That is, working with Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox and the big film, Back to the Future or your involvement with Quincy Jones in the We Are the World thing all happened around the same time.
Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale and Neil Canton, who produced, directed and wrote Back to the Future, had a meeting with my manager and me. They said, “We’ve written this film and we have this character called Marty McFly. His favorite band would be Huey Lewis and the News.” We thought, “How would you like to write a song for that film?” I said, “Flattered but I don’t know how to write for film necessarily and I don’t fancy writing a song, I’m just being honest, called Back to the Future.” They said, “No, it didn’t have to be called Back to the Future. Call it one of your songs.” I said, “We’ll write and we’ll send to you.” The Power of Love was the next thing we wrote.
Interestingly, the song went to number one. It’s the fastest song we’ve had the number one but, in those days, you had to build a single at CHR. I don’t even know what they do anymore but in those days, you release a record and you get most added. Then the next week, you get most added again, then you got so many stations. You’re not going to be most added but you get hot. Meaning, you’re getting reactions or good phones and based on all of this stuff, they chart you’re single and you get the numbers every Tuesday. We would wait for those numbers.
The Power of Love was the most added and the movie wasn’t finished. They wrapped principal shooting and got it to the theaters in nine weeks. It’s still a record over there. The reason they did is because The Power of Love was soaring up the charts when the movie was released. The week that Back to the Future came out, The Power of Love was already number one.
It was being used in production pieces too because back then, I would come home from the sixth grade, get my afterschool snack and watch Garfield and Heathcliff. They would use that song in the promos for those cartoons.
What if I get paid for that?
You should look into that. My brother is an attorney. He can do that for you.
You got to check with Scaggs after. The acting thing, was that little cameo in that piece the deck gives you the bug or did you have a little bit of that thing happening? You’re playing yourself in an episode of The Blacklist with James Spader. That had to be fun.
I always heard of it but it’s never done. I don’t like to play myself. I like to act. It’s fun, especially when it’s creative and the other actors are good. Unfortunately, you don’t get that often. Even great actors are starving for parts. I don’t get the great parts because I’m not an actor by trade but I like to act and it’s fun when I do stuff like that but I don’t like to play myself because that’s easy. The thing with this particular episode is I have to act as myself. I have some crap I got to do or I pretend that all this stuff happened. I give a speech at the character’s memorial like he was my best friend. I had to pretend that he’s my best friend and then my muse for his mother because Raymond Reddington asked me to. You do what he asks you to do. There was some acting required.
There are songs that you just hear, and it takes you back. They have longevity.
Howard Stern played himself in Private Parts. He said the challenging thing about that was remembering how he acted in his youth. I’m like, “That would be a challenge. Don’t put yourself in that headspace again.”
One of my life dreams is to get on a sitcom set and you got to do a couple of episodes of Hot in Cleveland. Wasn’t that with Betty White?
It was big fun. Not only did it in four episodes of Hot in Cleveland with Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, my pal. Wendie’s my love interest on it. It’s fantastic. First of all, they’re great and Betty White’s unbelievable. I did the last episode of the whole rap and I get to marry Bob Newhart and Betty White. They get married by a fake Huey Lewis in Vegas. I got the red suit and I weigh 300 pounds. It was a two-week deal. I got to share the next-door dressing room with Bob Newhart and that was cool.
The show Hot in Cleveland sounds like it could be a Huey Lewis and the News’ song. The Heart of Rock & Roll is in Cleveland.
I’m surprised they didn’t ask you to do the theme. Sitcoms are the dreams because they syndicate like nobody’s business. The new record, do you have an affinity or an appreciation for old country and Western music? There’s a song, One of the Boys, that’s got a harmonica and a steel guitar. Who plays the steel guitar on that?
John McFee. He killed it. I sent it to him and he sent it back. It was awesome. Duke Ellington said there are only two kinds of music. Good and bad. Do I like country music? I love country music. I’m not so fond of modern country music. I got a line in Remind Me Why I Love You Again. “You don’t cook and you won’t clean. You can’t even operate a washing machine. You can’t stand the spicy food. You like modern country, I like rhythm and blues.”
That’s a great record. It’s like a styles journey.
We were warned against that since day one week. I can’t help it. You write and record the songs that you’re given. They’re absolute gifts to you. You got to follow the song. A song tells you how it wants to be cut. Let’s make this one a funk tune, it has to be.
That one’s got like a James Brown’s wah-wah guitar thing and then there are Pretty Girls Everywhere. It’s a total ‘50s doo-wop.
That’s a great story, Pretty Girls Everywhere. That’s Eugene Church. That’s the only cover we did on the record. When we toured in ’91, we took The Neville Brothers on tour with us opened up. We took Stevie Ray Vaughan in his very first national tour and we took The Neville Brothers in the very first. We took shed tours. We did it for 40 days. We sat in with them every night and it was awesome. One of these times Aaron said to me, “You ever hear the tune of Pretty Girls Everywhere by Eugene Church?” I said, “Nope.” He says, “You need to do that song.” I said, “Okay.” Then he gave me a little vinyl single of Eugene Church and I forgot all about it. I found it years ago. I put it on and went, “That is a great idea.” We got it for the record. I told him and he was overjoyed.
There are pretty girls everywhere.
Everywhere I go. When I’m at the rodeo, they come on horses.
Everyone’s got to check out the record, Weather.
“Mermaids are swimming like a whale. Splish-splash.” It’s ridiculous.
I haven’t researched who wrote a lot of the songs. I’m sure you have a hand in nearly everything. Like in Nashville, the Songwriting Capital of the World, 10:00 AM on a Monday morning, there’s going to be two guys in a room with two acoustic guitars. What happened over the weekend? What’s going on in your life? One guy comes in with a couple of chords. One guy comes in with a title. The next thing you know, they’re bringing it to a demo session band. It’s very mechanized and there’s this big machinery. What’s your writing process? Are you writing with a keyboard, make a little garage band demo and then you bring it to life? Are you writing on the studio floor? How do you guys handle it?
First of all, we’re not very prolific. It’s not as if we just write and write ten songs to get one. There’s none of that involved. Glenn Frey was a buddy of mine. We were playing golf with AT&T Pebble Beach and being interviewed by this guy, Scott Ostler, a wonderful sportswriter in San Francisco. He was a fan and he said, “Between you two guys, you must have written thousands of songs. I bet you got millions of songs you never use.” I said, “I ain’t got nothing. You heard everyone I wrote.” Glenn says, “Same with me. I’ve used everything I’ve ever written.” He says, “I thought you written sizes.” Glen says, “Show me a guy who’s written 100 songs, I’ll show you 96 pieces of shit.” We write four great songs. We got about it.
You got to write 100 to find those 4.
There’s a divine touch of inspiration because you’re one of those bands and one of those artists that defined a generation. You’re on the soundtrack of the ‘80s, the ‘90s and such. There are songs that you hear and it takes you back. They have longevity, a staple in society and culture at the time. There are not many of them. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Anybody come to mind in the modern times that make an impression on you, that we’re going to know and go, “I remember that song years from now?”
There are plenty of artists but I think the landscape has changed so much that you can’t hit like you used to have. It’s not big enough part of the show business pie. People want to watch the screen. Audio has shrunk since ‘30s and ‘40s. America learned how to behave from music, watching and listening to the thing. We learned, “I like New York in June, how about you?” We learned what’s cool and what isn’t. All that from music was our information source. Believe it or not, there was no Google, no radio. It was music. You can’t have that impact anymore. I don’t think.
TikTok is breaking a ton of artists.
They’re going to be the Geico ad. These ads you hear all the time flow.
There’s flow. The guy goes salamander.
Interestingly, where do you hear real blues, real RnB, Howlin’ Wolf or something like that? There’s no radio station that plays Howlin’ Wolf. You hear it on a Honda ad, some kind of corporate ad, an IBM ad or something.
The Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
The music supervisors in those Marvel movies are amazing.
They pick some real winners.
Shuffles, 12/8 rhythm and blues songs are dead on the radio. When I teach drum students, they don’t know how to play shuffles because they don’t have a cultural relationship with them because they’re not being recorded. I almost feel like the last was Glass Tiger that had a hit in ’89 or something with that.
Shuffles got to be felt. It’s a whole separate thing. Machines don’t have to feel. They got perfect timing but they don’t have to feel.
The times we go through serve to help us remember what is good when it comes back. It’s like you got to go through the valleys to appreciate them.
What do you mean, with the COVID or the technology?
COVID and everything that we’re going through, even musically. It all comes back and eventually, people start appreciating real human music again. It’s got to come back.
There’s this kid, Joey Alexander, who plays piano, the little Taiwanese kid.
Was he nine or something?
He’s 14, 15.
He’s so old for an influencer.
You got to Google him when you get off. He’s unbelievable. He’s played Giant Steps. What’s interesting is this is going to occur on the side anyway. There’s going to be that. That’s real music. That’s not pop. That’s the real deal right there.
When this goes away and we get the green light for us to entertain and take the music to the people again, is that on the plan? Are you going to go out there and promote Weather? What are you thinking?
I can’t hear. I’m going to try. I haven’t given up yet.
That’s inspirational. I see the golf clubs back there. My old man’s got two holes in once. Not bad. How do you do that? That’s practice like the drums. He plays four times a week.
Where is he?
He’s in Port Charlotte, Florida.
That’s the right place to be. We can’t play four times a week in Montana, some weeks, weekends.
Nashville alone, we had tornadoes, a pandemic and snowstorms, also Port, Texas. This is crazy.
Don’t forget about the explosion.
We’ll get through it. As humanity, we always do. What a legacy. I want to thank you for all the music and all the great things.
It didn’t hurt a bit. It’s good to be with you.
I know it was a thrill for Jim as well. To all the readers out there, what a great time. Be sure to subscribe, share, rate and review. When you got some positive feedback, we got an email address for you, TheRichRedmondShow@gmail.com. As always, keep coming back for the good stuff. Huey, thank you so much.
See you, Rich and Jim.
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