Tuesday, April 16, 2013


When I first heard AMBROSIA in the 70's, I was captured by their superb songwriting and crisp musicianship that rode the radio waves of pop and progressive rock into the early 80's. More than 40 years after they first hit the scene, AMBROSIA continues to thrill it's fans, still touring with three of the original four members. BURLEIGH DRUMMOND is the original drummer and is very excited to bring the band back to Long Island. On Thursday, April 18, they will be appearing at the new SUFFOLK THEATER in Riverhead. I had a real nice chat with Burleigh recently as he told me about the band today....

MICK: I first became aware of Ambrosia when I heard "Nice Nice Very Nice" on the radio back in the mid 70's. It's always been one of my favorite songs. That was originally a poem by famed writer Kurt Vonnegut. How did you go about making that a song?
BURLEIGH: We were writing for our first album and we had this song with a totally different name but the music was the same. Joe Puerta, our bass player, was reading Vonnegut's book "Cat's Cradle" and he came across the "Song of Bokonon" and he brought it in one day and tried singing it to the music we had for the other song and it fit perfectly. He went ahead and wrote a second verse to go with the first verse. We called it 'Nice Nice Very Nice". We really liked it and were very content with the new song. Then a few weeks before the album was coming out, somebody said "Did anybody ask Kurt Vonnegut if this was ok?" This panic ensued and we immediately got in touch with him and got the papers to him. We were pretty nervous. He loved it! He wrote us a great letter saying "The only art form that is worth a damn". Later we got to meet him and that was a mind blowing experience. To meet an artist of that depth! We met him while he was writing and he was
deep into the character he was writing about. It was pretty mind opening!
MICK: Did Ambrosia ever take another poem from another writer and make a song out of it?
BURLEIGH: We were inspired by the e.e. cummings in "Somewhere I Have Never Traveled" and we wrote our own lyrics to it. We did steal the line!
MICK: I know in the beginning you guys worked with Alan Parsons. What was that like working with him?
BURLEIGH: It was amazing! He came over to the Grammy Awards for "The Dark Side of the Moon" and we had been in contact with him before that. He heard our rough stuff for our first album and he said he would love to mix it! During the course of mixing our first album, we recorded some tracks on his first album. It was a big secret as we weren't allowed to know what we were recording. The album was "The Tales of Mystery and Imagination". We did the opening track "The Raven" and he told us it was called "The Raver". They were afraid the secret of their album would get out! Alan is a great guy! He really opened us up sonically to what was possible. When you think rock and roll or pop, you think volume to some extent. I would come into the control room when he was mixing something and it would literally take me a few seconds to realize there was music playing because it was so soft. He would say "If I can hear music at that level, then I know it's fine".
MICK: In Ambrosia, who were the principle songwriters?
BURLEIGH: Everybody contributed on every song as everybody's input was vital. A lot of things would come out of jam sessions. I would say Joe Puerta and Dave Pack were like our Lennon and McCartney and I was kind of the George Harrison!
MICK: What is your favorite Ambrosia song?
BURLEIGH: There's a lot of them but I would say one of my favorites is "Heart To Heart"[from the 3rd album "Life Beyond L.A."]. I love that song!
MICK: Why did Dave Pack leave the band?
BURLEIGH: In 1989 when Ambrosia reunited, Dave started to get a fair amount of producing jobs so he wasn't able to make a lot of the gigs. That was kind of leaving us in a lurch. There was starting to be a little seperation. So it just became a better situation to go on without him. We still really wanted to play. In a sense, Ambrosia was kind of unfinished business. We felt that we never really got the live statement out as much as we wanted to. Dave was not quite as eager to go out on tour. I think the road was a little harder on him than on us. Right now, I feel that Ambrosia is the best and as strong as it's ever been!
MICK: Are you and Dave still friends?
BURLEIGH: Yes I'd say we are friends. We have a relationship that's copasetic and understood and we are all good!
MICK: Who is in the current Ambrosia?
BURLEIGH: We have three of the original four members Joe Puerta, Chris North and myself. When we are a five piece band, it's Rick Cowling on keyboards and vocals and Doug Jackson on guitar and vocals. When we are a six piece, we add my wife Mary Harris to the mix. That's when we do most of our progressive music. That's mostly the first two albums for instance.

MICK: Will you be coming with a six piece to the Suffolk Theater on April 18?
BURLEIGH: No we will be a five piece for this show. It will probably be a combination show. We have our version of melodic progressive and we have the hits. Now it gels better than before. We can play "Mama Frog" in the same set as "How Much I Feel" where as in the 70s, it felt like mixing arsenic and peach! Now people seem to roll with everything a lot more now. We have fun mixing it up!
MICK: For over 20 years, you and your wife have had a group called Tin Drum. How did that come about?
BURLEIGH: When my wife and I found each other and got married, she was touring with Jimmy Buffett and flying around doing background sessions for Pink Floyd in "Animal Logic". I was doing a lot of drumming for other people like Dave Mason, Jim Messina and doing a lot of album projects. It got to be like we were handing our infant son off to each other in the airport. She would be leaving or I would be coming. It got to the point where we said "Hey, let's try to work together!" Otherwise we would be always passing each other in airports! So that was our effort to spend more time together and be creative together. After about three albums, we built a studio here and all of sudden we started producing other artists like Mighty Mo Rogers. Now we are making an effort to back recording with just the two of us again.
MICK: Does Tin Drum ever perform outside of California?
BURLEIGH: Yes we've played outside of California. It's not a heavy touring schedule but probably about 10 times a year we travel outside of oir community!
MICK: As a drummer, which drummers do you admire?
BURLEIGH: Gosh which drummers don't I admire! I do have my super influences like Elvin Jones. He changed my life. Jim Keltner was a profound influence. I see a kid playing thats only been playing for a month in a band and something he will do will knock me out. Anything and everything means something to me like the patter of rain or the rhythym of traffic. It's everywhere! I did a session last night with Bill Champlin from The Sons Of Champlin. I don't think I've ever seen so much talent in one person! He's not a drummer but he's a drummer! I had some valuable lessons last night!
MICK: When you play The Suffolk Theater, will the band be signing autographs after the show?
BURLEIGH: For sure! We will have our CDs and DVDs with us!
MICK: What's on the radar for Ambrosia?
BURLEIGH: We just got off two cruises that were amazing! A progressive cruise and a more commercial cruise. We had the Moody Blues cruise and then we did the Yes cruise. They were both amazing! We want to do as much live playing as possible. We are trying to do a new record bit by bit. We also want to get out to some places that we haven't been to in a long time. We haven't been to Asia in a long time so we want to get over there. We want to develop Europe a little more and South America too. These are all on the wish list! We will continue to play a lot in the United States!

AMBROSIA 8:00PM Thursday, April 18, 2013
Suffolk Theater - Home (631) 727-4343 118 E Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901
For tickets: http://www.suffolktheater.com/suffolk-theater/ambrosia


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Chat With PATTI DAVIS about her new lesbian novel!

She has been in the limelight for most of her life and is the daughter of one of our nation's most beloved Presidents. Today, Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, has self-published a lesbian love novel called “Till Human Voices Wake Us.” It has already gained the attention of many and is getting rave reviews throughout the world! I connected with Patti recently on Facebook and was thrilled to speak with her about her new book!

MICK: Congratulations on the release of your new book "Till Human Voices Wake Us"!
PATTI: Thank you! I'm just being this obsessive author now! My ranking keeps going up and then down so I am just out here spreading the word about it!
MICK: I know that this book is a fiction but is it based on anybody that you know?
PATTI: No. Years ago I overheard a conversation between two people that I don't know and never met. They were talking about two sisters in law who fell in love with each other and simultaneously divorced their husbands. They had no history of being gay and no history in bisexuality. They just fell in love! I thought that was just wonderfully complicated! as a writer, I thought that was a great centerpiece for a novel. So when I was thinking about turning this into a novel, I had to figure a way into this. A woman just doesn't sit across a lunch table from her sister in law and all of sudden say "Oh my God, I just fell in love with you!". Another thing from my distant past was a woman I knew whose 3 year old son drowned in her swimming pool. I remember she said to me "I don't know who left the screen door open". That stayed with me. Those two things kind of came together and it made sense to me how shattered someone is with the loss of a child. In the
grief that follows, anything can happen. In my novel, the woman's husband sort of abandons her emotionally. Her sister in law is the one that is there for her. The story then took on a life of it's own as fiction does. The characters lead me in terms of where they wanted to go.
The question that does drive the story is who left the screen open! She does find out at the end. I didn't even know what the answer to that was going to be until I got there! I was even wondering who it was! I know there are writers who continually outline their stories and they know every point of the story. I'm not one of those writers. I'm one of those writers who is taking on an adventure by these characters and the story goes places that i did not anticipate. I did not know until I got close to that point and it kind of surprised me!
MICK: That sounds like an exciting way to write!
PATTI: It's the only way I know how! I remember hearing in an interview with Stephen King years ago about a TV mini series called "Storm of the Century". The lead character, a black-eyed, stocking-capped stranger, says throughout the movie "Give me what I want and I'll go away". In the interview, King said "When I was writing this, when the man kept saying "give me what you want and I'll go away", I was wondering what he wanted!"
It turned out he was a devil and he wanted one of the children. But that was late in the series by the time we found out. I loved that King had lead us into his process and I loved that at the point when the rest of us found out what the guy wanted was also the point in which King found out! There's something very organic about that!
MICK: Did you get the title of your book “Till Human Voices Wake Us” from a line in T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a poem about drowning in memories?
PATTI: Yes I did! I love T.S. Eliot! I fell in love with that stanza and just thought it fit with this book.
MICK: Is this your first fiction book?
PATTI: No it's not. In fact, my first book in the 1980's "Homefront" was a novel. That's the book I got so much heat for. I did what every writer does. I culled from my life and I built a fictional story around it. There were obvious pieces of my life because I was the daughter of the newly elected President. It was totally a work of fiction. I thought so naively that it was obvious as I made the girl much older than me and old enough to be in the thick of things in the 60's. I was in high school in the 60's. I was so blasted for that novel! Then I wrote a second novel called "Deadfall" and it really didn't do well. Then in 1994, I wrote a novel called "Bondage" which was an erotic novel. These days it would be considered pretty tame. I've written several works of fiction and this is my latest! I have two other novels that I may self publish also. My literary agent never took my book around. A previous agent, who has since passed away, did take it around
a little bit years ago and there was interest in it but I think people were surprised that it was me and they are used to my nonfiction books. They couldn't get their heads around it.
I have a young adult fiction book called "The Blue Hour" coming also. Right now I'm liking swimming in these self publishing waters!
MICK: How long did it take you to write this particular book?
PATTI: I started this in the late 90's. I worked on it in pieces. I remember working on it after 9/11. The grief that we were all feeling brought me back to this novel. But I was doing a lot of magazine work and I did two other published books. I kept going back to this novel and after working on it for so long, I saw that there were some dated references that had to be updated. So I made the changes! I really love this book! I was watching Kindle Publishing and was reading up on it and decided to go in this direction. What's the worse that could happen?
MICK: How are sales doing so far?
PATTI: It's doing really well! Page Six in the NY Post wrote a little thing on it. They put a provocative title on it about a lesbian love story! I first thought when I saw the headline "Oh great! Now I'm never going to get a boyfriend now!" Fortunately the first line of the text was "Patti Davis is NOT a lesbian but she's written this novel..." There was a huge jump in sales then! People were emailing me saying they were trending me on Yahoo. It's slowed up a little bit now. I'm trying to so as much as I can in the social media. Facebook has been really helpful! Plus it's interesting that the timing right now has worked in my favor with the Supreme Court stuff going on. I did not plan that!
MICK: It's getting great revues on Amazon! Is it available on any other sites?
PATTI: No but I am going to do a Createspace actual paperback book with it. Kindle Direct Publishing has been so helpful with me. I really can't say enough about them. I am not a tech savy person and I was thinking that I would have to pay a computer person to sit with me and do it. But I listened to their video tutorial about how to self publish a book and I followed their steps. I did it! It got enough press that somebody from Kindle Direct Publishing contacted me about doing a Createspace book as a physical book. So I'm doing that now!

MICK: How is your mom doing these days?
PATTI: She's doing ok these days. She is 91 now. She is fragile. I see her on Sundays and she misses my father.
MICK: Is she aware of your new book?
PATTI: No she's not because she doesn't have a Kindle! I think I mentioned it to her years ago and she had sort of a negative reaction.
MICK: Do you keep in touch with your brother Ron?
PATTI: Yes all of the time!
MICK: You told me previously that you were going to an Alzheimer's support group a few nights a week. Did you start that group?
PATTI: I did start that group! I had this idea for an Alzheimer's support group for caregivers and family members of people suffering from Alzheimer's. I took the idea to UCLA and they said yes! Two nights a week I run this support group.I titled it "Beyond Alzheimer's" because in the ten years of my father's illness, I really learned to look beyond the disease. I learned to keep remembering that in my belief my father's soul could not have Alzheimer's.
It was a daily and constant exercise in looking beyond the walls of the disease. Not only as it affected him but as it affected me. Family members are sort of imprisoned as well.I'm really proud of it. I've been doing this for a couple years now and it's got a lot of attention. UCLA has been very good to me and very supportive of this. It doesn't cost people anything to come, just pay for parking! It's been very gratifying to see people make the changes that not only help their loved ones but also help them. I've also written a little book called 'Beyond Alzheimer's" that tells about the principles that I've brought to this group. There is a publisher interested in that so that will be an actual published book!
MICK: Are you involved politically at all?
PATTI: Not really. I really don't like politics. I'm very passionate about wolves and the environment. I am a democrat and I do speak out at times. I do support President Obama but I'm still disappointed environmentally. I would have never anticipated the horrible things that are going on, particularly with wolves, in this administration. I am disappointed. Politics is not on my front burner but certain issues are. Politics seems like the problem to everything! We are playing politics with this planet! we are playing politics with guns! I don't get it.
MICK: Were you a democrat when your dad was President?
PATTI: Yes I was! We disagreed on things. But my father did come out and support a ban on assault weapons. Not immediately after he was shot but he did! In the 70's when he was governor of California, he came out against an initiative that would ban gay teachers from a school. There were things we agreed on!
MICK: Are you doing any more acting?
PATTI: Oh my God no! That was many years ago. All I ever wanted to be was a writer. At some point at the end of high school, someone said to me that you have to have a backup career. They meant something where you get a degree, like a business degree, a law degree, etc... So my backup profession was acting! It doesn't make a lot of sense but that was it! I wasn't very good and I made a little money with it!
MICK: What is a typical day for you like?
PATTI: I have a pretty simple life. I get up at dawn, I walk my dog, I work out a lot. I may hang out with friends. There's the support group and things like lectures I do for that.
MICK: Do you have any hobbies besides writing?
PATTI: I love gardening. I'm a really good gardener. Maybe that should have been my backup profession! I spend a lot of time writing. I just love it! I'm always working on more than just one thing at a time. I love doing journalistic pieces. That's got to be more problematic than it used to be. I like doing it even though you don't get paid as much as you used to!
MICK: Will you be traveling the country to promote your new book?
PATTI: I don't think so. If "Beyond Alzheimer's" gets published, then I will have to be out there promoting that. For this book, I think social media and interviews takes care the promoting. The days of going to cities and doing book signings are scarce these days because there are not many book stores around anymore. Times have changed. Now we are connected through social media like Facebook and you can reach a lot more people. There are some annoying things about social media but for the most part, it's a really good thing! In the world right now, it does allow people to be connected. I'm very happy with it! You can do a lot right from your computer and you don't have to get on a plane!
MICK: What are your plans after this book?
PATTI: I think "Beyond Alzheimer's" is going to get published. I have these two novels that I may also self publish. I would really love if I could get film rights sold for "Till Human Voices Wake Us". I think it could be a really cool movie, along the lines of 'The Kids Are Alright".
I think all of the characters would be good vehicles for actors and actresses!

You can order Patti Davis's new book "Till Human Voices Wake Us" at:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

DICK PEREZ: Brilliant Baseball Art at Agora Gallery

DICK PEREZ is regarded as one of the finest baseball artists in America, if not the world! He is perhaps best known for his work with the Perez Steele Galleries with his brilliant paintings of Baseball Hall of Famers. Perez has also been the official artist for the Philadelphia Phillies since 1982 and was the official artist for the Major League Hall of Fame for twenty-five years. Starting on March 26, 2013, Perez will be having a solo exhibition at the Agora Art Gallery in NYC called "Dick Perez: a solo exhibition of baseball's finest". The show will run until April 16, 2013. I recently had the great pleasure to speak with Perez prior to his new exhibition...

MICK: Please tell me about your new solo exhibition that opened at Agora Gallery on April 26!
DICK: The exhibition is a solo exhibit of 55 of my paintings that I've done for a book I published not long ago and additional work that I prepared this past year. What I tried to do with this is form a visual timeline of the game of baseball. I begin with a couple of nineteenth century Hall of Famers and proceed to the dead ball era to the golden age which the time of Babe Ruth and the depression. It goes on to today with the last painting being that of Derek Jeter. This way it shows the viewing public the evolution of the game in terms of uniforms, equipment, stadiums and things like that.
MICK: Is this your first time at the Agora Gallery?
DICK: Yes it is! I've had one other exhibit in NY some years ago and some other solo exhibitions but I could this one an important one because it is in New York. For me, New York is the Mecca of baseball. I was raise partially in New York and I was a Yankee fan. I came to this country from Puerto Rico when I was six years old during the heyday of baseball when there were three teams in New York. I just think there are more baseball fans in New York than anywhere else in the country so it's important in that respect. It's also, I think, the art center of the world especially where Agora is located which is Chelsea. There are over 500 galleries there!
MICK: The postcard for your show is a beautiful painting of Mickey Mantle. I've read that he was your favorite ballplayer. Is he still?
DICK: Yes! You just don't forget that although subsequent to that I also loved Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Hank Greenberg...people who were associated with breaking certain barriers whether racial or ethnic in the game of baseball.
MICK: Basically how long does it take you to complete a painting?
DICK: I try not to stay with a painting too long as I get anxious to nove on to the next one. The most I would work on a painting is probably about two weeks. Of course that would involve a lot of lettering of signage and things like that, multiple figures, etc...It could be anywhere from a matter of few days to a matter of a few weeks. There might have been a painting or two that were large and I spent more time on those.
MICK: Do you work on more than one painting at a time?
DICK: Sometimes I do but I prefer to just focus on each painting. Start it, complete it and move on.
MICK: I know you work in various mediums. What is your favorite?
DICK: I really like oil. Oil is something that took me a while to master. I was really a graphic designer and got into illustration through that field. I worked in water color primarily because it was the one medium that dries fast and easy to get to the printer to reproduce. There was a collector who bought a bunch of water colors from me and said "You've got to get into oils. That's where it's at". Most of the famous paintings you see in museums are oil mediums. It took me a while to master. Once I did it became a most forgiving medium. You can rub it off, you can paint on top of it, it's opaque, you can paint thin. It's a great medium to work with and it's everlasting as the colors remain vibrant throughout!
MICK: As someone who is very close to baseball as you are, how do you feel about the players accused of using steroids and other banned substances?
DICK: I'm really a fan of baseball's early age. I love the dead ball era, the golden age, the 40's and of course the early 50's. So what this use does it enhances the abilities of those players I grew up with. People like Hank Aaron have never been associated with the use of steroids. He hit 755 home runs! It's a very difficult question because some of these people like Barry Bonds. They were Hall of Famers before they started using the stuff. If in fact it does give you an edge, it is not a fair thing. It's really a serious and dark cloud that is hanging over the game today. Just witness the non induction year in the Hall of Fame this past year. A The guys that were up were associated with substances and nobody got in.
MICK: On another note, do you feel that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame?
DICK: Yes I do. As a player, he was so dominating in his vigor for the game, his energy and accomplishments. He was the top hit getter. But he violated one of the things in baseball that is the biggest no no which is even above steroids but that will be up there too. Betting is the last thing you want to be associated with by even a little bit. It is something that major league baseball protects themselves from and Rose violated that. I don't think he was the kind of player who would vote against himself and then not put out. I don't think he ever threw a game. I think he played every game and managed every game with the intention of winning. I really don't think his ban will be a forever thing. So for his accomplishments as a player, he should be in. I say that because there are many rascals in the Hall of Fame and a lot of people who did worse things.
MICK: How did you originally partner up with Frank and Peggy Steele?
DICK: I was doing graphic art work and illustration design work for the Philadelphia Eagles. There was a player who played for the Eagles named Pete Retzlaff and he was the general manager of the Eagles and he hired an assistant whom I knew. I got to do work for them and when Pete Retzlaff left the Eagles, he got a license to a project with the NFL. The fellow I knew recommended that I write it and illustrate it. In this particular project, Retzlaff was partners with Frank Steele. That's where I met him. The project was a failure unfortunately. Frank had the same love for baseball as myself and he was also a collector of the relics of baseball.
He was an attorney and held a chair on the stock exchange and was retired from all that. One thing lead to another and I happen to be in the right place at the right time!
MICK: Does that partnership continue?
DICK: No Frank passed away in 2001. We had discontinued the Perez Steele Gallery venture because his wife Peggy said they were no longer interested in pursuing it. He was the main front man in the venture. He was the guy that got things done, got permissions, and all of those necessary activities that goes in the production of commercial products for the art work I was doing. Peggy is still associated with the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is an endowment that she has given to the HOF for the internship program there.
MICK: Do you still paint for Topps Baseball Cards?
DICK: Not now but I'm still on call with them. When I was originally asked to participate in the Topps products, I thought that was fantastic. They do a great job and they have a sensitivity to the game's past. I've always admired the cards they did way back then. Because I did those kind of paintings of early baseball, it was a natural tie in with them. Topps is the only card company licensed to do baseball. They are always looking to satisfy their audience whom they feel is mainly young people as opposed to collectors. They always want to do something fresh and new. I respect that as a business decision. They treated me real well, they are great people and they put out a terrific product.

MICK: Out of the thousands of paintings you've done, do you have any particular favorite?
DICK: There are so many. There is a painting I did of Chilli Davis for a Diamond Kings card in an art treatment which was kind of a departure for me and it really came out well. I don't know why but I really loved that painting. It's dynamic and not your usual portrait, a little more vibrant in color. There is a Ty Cobb that I did about a year ago which was auctioned off at one of the auction companies and got a nice price for. That was a large painting and considered that a good one. There are a number of paintings I love but it's trying to distinguish between the children!
MICK: Are you a collector also:
DICK: I was but there were a lot of things buried in drawers. I eventually divested myself from many of those things. I collected when I was really into the Perez Steele venture with Frank. I had an entire collection of news photos from the Philadelphia Bulletin. They went out of business and their entire baseball collection of photographs was sold to someone. They sold it to someone else and then I bought them. There were hundreds of photos that were fantastic. Eventually I auctioned them off. I do collect original travel books. I'm not into autographs or equipment, especially modern. I've been associated with the Philadelphia Phillies since 1972 so I do have some World Series rings and some Pennant rings that I will treasure forever.
MICK: What projects do you have coming up after the Agora exhibition?
DICK: Laying on a beach somewhere on a tropical island! It's been real hectic lately. Art is really a commercial activity. Even though the gallery has done a lot, there's a lot that I have to do too. I have a number of collectors of my own that I communicate with and prepare materials for and do email blasts for. Recently I also moved from Pennsylvania to New York and that alone was a big challenge because I was downsizing and had to set up another studio. So I don't know if I will be doing more sports related paintings. I always wanted to do just a regular landscape! I've done them but they are not in abundance in my portfolio.

Dick Perez: a solo exhibition of baseball's finest
March 26 - April 16, 2013
AGORA GALLERY 530 West 25th Street, New York, NY 212.226.4151
Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-ScbzeARFg to view a video about the artist.