Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Many years ago, a young Long Island musician placed an ad in the Village Voice looking for a keyboard player and a bass player to join his band. Among those who responded was Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. They went to to become meticulous, edgy and ultimate cool band Steely Dan. And the rest is history! Denny Dias was that young Long Island musician who went on to become a world class guitarist and founding member of Steely Dan. This weekend, Denny will be appearing at "ROCK CON: Weekend of 100 Rock Stars" at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center in East Rutherford, NJ.
I had the great pleasure to speak to Denny from his California home just days before his trip back east...
MICK: What was it like for you growing up on Long Island?
DENNY: I grew up in Hicksville. I went to junior high school and high school there. We had some good people. Actually played in a battle of the bands opposite another Hicksville musician Billy Joel. A few other guys I graduated with were in a band that included drummer Mitch Mitchell who plyed with Jimi Hendrix.
MICK: Do you still have relatives on Long Island?
DENNY: No, my family is from Philadelphia. I have one cousin who lives in Manhattan. I haven't been back to the New York City area since 2000.
MICK: When Steely Dan first started out, did you guys play any clubs on Long Island?
DENNY: No we never played any Long Island clubs. We did rehearse in my living room in Hicksville.
MICK: It's been documented that you met Donald Fagan and Walter Becker through an ad in The Village Voice. How did you meet Jeff "Skunk" Baxter [another original Steely Dan member]?
DENNY: They [Fagan and Becker] found him. They got together with Gary Katz and called me from California so I drove across country to join them. They already had a record released "Dallas". So I didn't meet Baxter until I went to California.
MICK: Do you keep in touch with Jeff Baxter?
DENNY: I run into him every once in a while. It's not often though.
MICK: Donald Fagan and Walter Becker seemed like they were perfectionists with there music. Did you think it was hard for some musicians to work for them?
DENNY: It's hard for every musician to work for them.
MICK: I always thought that "Aja" was one of the best albums I ever heard, even to this day. What was it like to work on this masterpiece?
DENNY: You got your little piece, learned it well and go in to perform it. You don't hear the whole thing until it's done.
MICK: This weekend, you are appearing at ROCK CON, the first annual Weekend Of 100 Rock Stars" set to take place at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center in East Rutherford, NJ on July 30 – August 1 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Is this the first time you've done something like this?
DENNY: Yes and I'm very excited about it. I know that I will be playing on Sunday at 5:00pm with some of the other guests appearing. Monday I head into Manhattan to play at BB Kings with Spanky and Our Gang.
MICK: Do you have a favorite Steely Dan song that you worked on?
DENNY: It's hard to say. I have some favorite songs that I didn't work on! I guess my favorite solo would be the one on "Green Earrings".
MICK: Do you keep in touch with Fagan and Becker?
DENNY: I haven't seen them sinse the 90's. They played in Los Angeles and I joined them on stage for a few songs. That was fun.
MICK: Who were your heroes when you were growing up?
DENNY: I was always partial to Miles Davis. I thought he was the coolest! There's some good players today but there's nobody of the stature of Miles Davis. Him and John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk were the best. When I saw Thelonious Monk at Queens College, that was really something quite amazing!
MICK: Are you working on any musical projects now?
DENNY: No, not really. I work a full time job. I program computers for a living now. Been doing that for around twenty years.
MICK: What are your future plans?
DENNY: Well, I'm just trying to keep my job!
MICK: Are you ever going to do anything more as far as music goes?
DENNY: It depends. I have a lot of songs that I've written. If we can do something with Spanky, get some songs on a record, maybe something will eventually happen. In the meantime, doing a thing like this is more of an expense than anything else. We are all paying our own way to get there. It's not like the gig is going to support the trip. You can only do that a couple of times a year. So who knows, maybe we will record some music and see what happens.
The Summer's most anticipated festival for music fans and collectors is expected to draw thousands of attendees who will meet, enjoy concerts by, listen to interviews with, and actually hang out with musicians, singers, pop personalities and rock icons from all eras of rock & roll. Along with the live concert performances, meet & greets, and question & answer sessions, there will be panel discussions, rare film screenings, photo ops, a music & memorabliia marketplace, and much more.
The seemingly endless guest list represents 50 years of great music and memories, with such names as Denny Dias, Johnny Winter, Little Anthony, Beach Boys Founding Member Al Jardine, Tommy James, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Randy Jones of The Village People, Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship, Gene Cornish of The Rascals, Paul Cotton of Poco, Andy Kim, Billy Hinsche of Dino Desi & Billy, Walter Egan, Phil "Fang" Volk of Paul Revere & The Raiders, Spanky & Our Gang, Paul Petersen, Ron Dante of The Archies and many more.
Although most of the guest artists will be present the entire weekend, there is a different schedule of events planned for all three days. The highlight of each evening is expected to be the last two hours of the event, when all the stars get to sing or play their hits - and jam on the songs of their fellow singers and musicians - in the hotel's Grand Ballroom Main Stage. Additionally, Friday night will feature the National Rock Icon Awards Ceremony Presentations (the RCIA's), which will not only honor the legends, acknowledge music accomplishments, but also recognize fan favorites.
Themes for the Weekend include "LENNON LEGACY," with special guests from The Beatles' history, "ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAMERS," "THE GREAT GIRL GROUPS REUNION," "HORROR ROCKERS REUNION" and the "BUBBLEGUM REUNION."
A rock event like this is long-overdue. Celebrate 50 years of rock history live.
Complete info is online at www.RockFanFest.com, and the complete list of guests is available at: http://www.nationalrockcon.com/Artists.htm.
Tickets are $20-$40 with special "Gold," "Silver" and "Platinum" weekend packages available.
For any further info, call (203) 795-4737.
What: ROCK CON: Weekend of 100 Rock Stars
Where: Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center, 2 Meadowlands Plaza, East Rutherford, NJ
Hours: Friday, July 30 2010 5pm-11pm, Saturday, July 31 2010 Noon-10pm, Sunday, August 1 2010 Noon-9pm
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
This weekend, The Great South Bay Music Festival returns for the 4th year with a dazzling lineup for everybody's taste of music. It will take place at Shorefront Park in Patchogue from Friday July 9th until Sunday July 11th featuring 47 performers on three stages! This event is the brainchild of Long Island's favorite promoter Jim Faith, who spoke to me during a rare break days before the big show....
MICK: It's quite a lineup you have this year for the Festival. How do you choose the bands that are coming?
JIM: I try to book a little of each genre of American music. I want to get some folk, some funk, some blues, definitely contemporary and classic rock, some gospel, a little bit of everything. Initially it was more of a blues thing mixed with American music but I decided I wanted to be different and not just have one type of music. Besides headliners, I try to bring in new bands and give them an opportunity to play. They usually go on early. There's a few local bands, a few very young bands and then there's the headliners. We were very proud to bring in Odetta, a legendary gospel singer, a few years ago right before she passed away. It was one of the last shows she did.
This year we have John Gorka, Aztec Two Step, and we also have James Maddock who is new on the scene. We really try to mix it up ans I think it works very well.
MICK: Are there any last minute additions?
JIM: Not at this point. We were changing and adding up till last week. Some people had to pull out. Susan Cowsill had to pull out because of her tour schedule. Other than that, we aimed at a certain group of people. We actually we were looking to bring in Greg Allman and thank God we didn't because he just had a liver transplant and we would have lost our main headliner. We also try not to do commercial music. The acts we bring in are very high quality and cultural. Brother Joscephus is a New Orleans gospel group; Sarah Psalm is a really true gospel singer; War is classic R&B; The New Deal is very big in the jam band world and they are creating a whole new genre of dance jam music.
MICK: How many people do you expect to attend this year?
JIM: We are hoping for 25,000 to 30,000.
MICK: What's happening with the Brookhaven Amphitheater concerts this year?
JIM: All I can say at this point is there's nothing happening this year. It's truly a political thing. This is something I'd like to talk about after the Festival.
MICK: I know the Long Island Music Hall of Fame acquired the old bank on Main Street in Port Jefferson as it's new home. Has there been any progress with that?
JIM: No, that's also a town situation. The village is very excited about us coming there. We didn't purchase the building, the village passed a resolution that said we could use the building for the Hall of Fame and Museum. It's just taking a long time, not moving fast at all. It's a perfect location and great for the village. There's going to be a resource room. We envision school buses coming here all day from all over the Island and the city and using the resource room to learn about Long Island musical history.
MICK: Is there going to be an induction show this year?
JIM: Yes there is! We are looking at the Oheka Castle possibly for the end of October or early November. It's a wonderful location. We were suppose to go to the Tilles Center but we just couldn't get it together.
MICK: What other events are you promoting this year?
JIM: I just confirmed August 29Th in the back of the Blue Point Brewery the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart and BILL Kreutzman . There's only going to be 1500 seats. We are probably going to sell all of the tickets on Facebook and word of mouth. You can also get them at the Festival this weekend. It's going to be a very intimate kind of thing. They will be with the Rhythm Devils. It will be an amazing show for sure!
Purchase tickets online at the Great South Bay Music Festival until July 8Th (online tickets sales end that day at 6 p.m.) or on the days of the festival. Ticket prices range from free for children 10 and under to $15.50 for Patchogue residents (if tickets purchased online) to $18.50 general admission for one day. There are also Three-Day General Admission passes for $44.50 to $50 and VIP passes are also available. Visit the Great South Bay Music Festival tickets page for more ticket info.
For more information, including a detailed list of the musicians who will be playing, please go to Great South Bay Music Festival.