Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
Bonus Day 6: Liverpool and the Cavern Club
- Day 1: May 24, 2007-
Hello everyone. I am thrilled to be in London, birth place of what moved me to play guitar. From the Beatles to Cream to the Rolling Stones to Led Zep and Queen, you all know what kind of music has come from the UK. And today I had one of my most memorable experiences in my life. I jammed in a trio with Jack Bruce and Simon Kirke (drums) from Free and Bad Company, along with Spike Edney (keys) from Queen, on two Cream classics, "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "White Room."
What can I say other that I am freaking out that I jammed with one of my biggest idols and influences! Jack was totally a gentleman at the camp, and he jammed a bit with ALL the bands. But for me to play "Clapton" to his brilliance, is just so a life dream. Yes, the counselors get those dreams made. And I will never forget today. We were jamming like Cream in 1968, and the fact that he enjoyed the jam made me feel like my college professor gave me a high mark in life.
The day started with us going to the famous UK rehearsal studio called "John Henry's" and we all ran upstairs to their pro shop where Gibson set up, and we got to choose guitars for the camp. I requested a Les Paul Custom, and that guitar now is my best friend. The black beauty jammed with Jack Bruce of course! My singer and guitarist and young 14 year old star of my band from Austin Texas, YaYo, picked out one of the new BFG Les Paul's. He didn't know about that model but it fit him great.
I saw Mick Ralphs grabbing a Les Paul Jr and Spencer Davis checking out an ES 175. My bass player Scott, who is a writer for a great magazine here in the UK, Classic Rock, chose a cool SG 3 Bass that I have used before. I knew it would be a good choice for his work ahead. We all auditioned with our pre-assigned bands at this camp, and my band's version of "Rock N Roll All Night" by KISS fit perfectly. We were up first! So it was really trial by fire, and we did a good job with YaYo singing and playing his heart out.
After lunch, my band got its rehearsal room, so we were off to learn "White Room" for Jack to hear. (I skipped lunch so I could actually run into a small room and practice for a while for the jam with Jack myself, setting an example that we all need to do our homework you know!) A quick run through of the Cream song for Jack to hear, and then he came to visit my band. What a trooper he was, and my band backed him well. I was proud, as they only have known each other a few hours.
Jack went around to see the bands, and then my big moment to shine and jam with the awesome bassman was to come. He did a short Q and A, and then it was time to play with him and Simon and Spike joined us for "White Room". I was so nervous, and at times I had to stop thinking about how cool this was, and just PLAY. That is when I play the best. "Sunshine" was great and so was "White Room". The campers freaked and I was also so happy to make him happy with the performance.
I also met Jack's daughter Natascha who is was helping out at the camp. She played me some of her music and she is VERY talented. Visit her site on myspace and check out a real talent. Dad gave her some great music ability. Jack signed some things for me, and I thanked him again for being such a great sport with the campers. Off he went in his Bentley and my mouth was again hanging open in disbelief. I didn't see the Cream reunion in person, only on DVD, but I certainly had a much better experience today.
Rehearsed with my band after landing back on planet earth. Worked on our Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, and even though we have some more work ahead, we will conquer the tunes. More tomorrow after some much needed rest. Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman is up tomorrow, and I will finally see Abbey Road and rehearse in the room that The Beatles recorded in.
Life is good in the UK!
- Day 2: May 25, 2007-
I thought it would be hard to compete with having rock bass legend Jack Bruce visit and jam with the campers, but day two was another dream come true. I knew this camp would take me and my camper band to Abbey Road, but I didn't realize we would record in the same studio as the best group in rock and roll, THE BEATLES! Studio two at Abbey Road is where magic happened and changed our lives, and my campers were to have quite a special experience.
After we signed in, we were given a little tour of the place before having us settle into the large and holy room simply called "Studio 2." We all had our mouths open from all the pictures in our minds of The Beatles we had seen creating their masterpieces in that studio. How would you like to walk up THE piano Paul McCartney recorded "Hey Jude" on!? I was having an out of body experience sitting down and playing a few bars from that song as my campers all gathered around in disbelief. The sound was there!
How about the other piano with the honky tonk sound used for "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"!? How about the Hammond Organ they used on "She's So Heavy"? Are you getting how cool this is?! We spent 6 hours in this room, jamming gazing recording with some of London's famed recording engineers. I took a ton of pix of everything there, and I saw the old gear that was used years ago just sitting in the hallway.
Engineer Sam and Robin Black, who has recorded McCartney and many other famous artists, was so helpful making us comfortable. Now my campers, who have never recorded professionally, would work in the most famous studio in the world! It was just unreal. I put my producer hat on and off we went into rehearsing our Rolling Stones cover song, "Bitch."
Later on Bill Wyman from the Stones would be visiting us in that room. It doesn't get much better than that!! We did some overdubs after our first few takes, and that was so interesting for my band to experience. I was just overwhelmed with the vibe, and the sounds we were getting in this studio were pristine. How I wish I could use this studio for my next solo disc! How about all the time! After hours of rehearsing and taking pictures on the famous stairs up to the control room where John, Paul, George, RIngo, and of course producer George Martin made history, it was time for a break.
Off to the lovely cafeteria that is in the studio, with a garden next to it. We had a nice English dinner, and then we were hard at work on an idea my young singer guitarist Yayo had. We knew we were having a very special guest any minute, and suddenly Bill Wyman entered the studio. We got to play "Bitch" for him! After our performance he plugged in his bass and jammed the song. My band loved it and I watched Bill's playing to give our Bass player Scott some tips.
We all chatted about a few things, like how the Stones never worked at Abbey Road, too posh! He had a great dry English humor and after some pix and photos I told him about my one time audition with Mick Jagger back in 1986 just prior to Jagger's solo tour. He made some funny rock 'n roll comments, that will remain in the famous room, about the solo tours of the members of the Stones. I thanked him for all he contributed to rock 'n roll history and he said he was sorry! Typical English humor of course.
After we came down from our collective cloud of meeting him AND jamming with a member of the Rolling Stones, we started recording "Day Tripper" from the Beatles Rubber Soul disc, which was recorded in this studio in 1965! Well, 42 years later my camper band is playing and recording this classic. I can't say we sounded as good as The Beatles, but just having the opportunity to celebrate their amazing music in the studio where they created such classics really is quite an honor.
But these are the special things that the Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp lets you experience! So such was day two, and we sadly left after an incredible time. We have two more visits planned so we weren't too sad after all. More about my Day Three coming soon.
- Day 3: May 26, 2007-
Another exciting day at the UK Fantasy Camp. I woke up and finally landed on my feet after working 6 hours at Abbey Road studios famed Studio 2. It was time to get back to rehearsing the band on our three songs. "Day Tripper" was getting tighter and tighter, and of course we had "Bitch" by the Stones pretty dialed in as we just had Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones play that song with us the night before.
Special guest Gary Brooker from Procol Harum, famed for the great song "Whiter Shade Of Pale", stopped by for a visit. I had my Procol Harum greatest hits CD ready for him to sign, and we played a new song that my star lead singer guitarist Yayo wrote. We were jamming all morning. That was our original tune for the competition and it was great to run it by Gary, as he is a famed keyboard player. We figured we could ask if the organ part I came up with was good. Gary jammed it with us, showing Joan our keyboard player, (great Mom of three kids, and a Doctor as well) some parts to use if she cared to.
There was also a visit by Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, and his clinic was really exciting. He shared all his knowledge of hit song-writing before jamming with the counselor band. His hits, "Takin Care Of Business", "American Woman" and "You Ain't Seen Nothin Yet" are really great examples of rock hits! He then went around to all the camper bands, and of course we did the same thing as he is songwriter.
We played him our new original and asked him about the chorus. We just had some lyric ideas, so he made a comment which made us get clearer as the best direction for the song. Great writer and great Canadian. He was never scheduled for the camp, but was house shopping in the UK, and knows David Fishof from the RINGO tours. We stayed the whole day at the John Henry studios, so it made for a good rehearsal day, and that was important. My campers know what a perfectionist I am. I should tell you about them.
Joan is on keys, and is the doctor Mom. Yayo, you heard about, is a powerhouse of talent in a 14 year old from Austin, Texas. His instinct for music is right on and he is our front-man. He's also the inspiration for our band name, CINCO DE YAYO. His favorite bands... Guns n Roses and KISS! Happy to have him in the band. John is my other lead guitarist, along with Yayo, and he is a pilot. His picture of his past when he flew fighter jets, made me smile big time. Ed, on drums, is a very successful businessman who LOVES playing the skins. The other guitarist is Charlie, also very successful in the corporate world, and is smiling like a kid when he plays his Les Paul.
Last, but not least, is my journalist Scott from "Classic Rock" magazine, which is a UK based magazine that I am very well aware of. The camp likes to include people like this to write about what a unique experience it is, and being in the camp is the best way to understand what it is about. He was a bit nervous at first and I was hard on him, as he was my bass player and you have be tight to make the band good. He is working really hard, and I am proud of his progress. The final night's competition will see how well the practice and direction I am giving them will pay off.
MORE tomorrow! Tired but happy in LONDON.
- Day 4: May 27, 2007-
Day four started off with my band, "Cinco De Yayo" going to Abbey Road Studios to record our new original that would be titled "Rock Steady". Scott, our journalist bassist, was missing in action, and I was freaking in the shuttle bus. I felt something was wrong and everyone tried to calm me down. But I was right... his plans to travel from his girl's place instead of the hotel backfired when the transportation was cancelled. He finally showed up wet and tired an hour late. But we got a bass from John Henry's as we were all really excited to cut that new song.
We got the basic track down fairly quickly, and this time we were NOT in Studio 2, we used Studio 3. Many famous work was done there and to be quite honest, studio 2 was quite intimidating so I was happy for the change. The studio is amazing and our new engineers were willing and quite able to do the job for us. Chris and Andy were impressed with the music and really enjoyed Yayo's talent and personality. We got Yayo in to do better sounding guitar parts, and then got him to sing a rough, as we had some plans to get Jack Bruce's daughter on the song once everyone from the camp heard her rehearsing some it with my band.
Back to John Henry's to rehearse some more as one more day to the big final concert event. We practiced our "Bitch" and "Day Tripper" and our original tune more, and then got visited by a very famous keyboard player; Jon Lord from DEEP PURPLE stopped in. A real gentleman and, since we did not prepare a Deep Purple song, we played the original to see if he liked the parts Joan was playing. Like Gary Brooker, he liked what he heard.
We got autographs and chatted a bit with him, and I told him ESP (my band with Eric Singer from KISS and Alice Cooper) covers some Deep Purple songs. After he left it was back to more fine tuning of the songs. I was very confident by now, but knew the next morning we would start discussing some staging and arranging of our three song performance to come that night.
Can't wait for the big event at Abbey Road Studio One!
- Day 5: May 28, 2007-
Last day of the camp, and the excitement along with the exhaustion of the days are in the air. All 7 bands playing for 15 minutes on stage in Studio One at the most famous studio in the world, Abbey Road! We had a morning session of rehearsal, and now it was time to discuss the staging of my band, "Cinco de Yayo". We knew Yayo, our amazing young 14 year old front-man, would introduce himself as "half Monster, half Mexican" but together WE are Cinco De Yayo!! Funny way to start the set but we loved his humor and want to keep things light for sure.
After a good rehearsal tightening up our three tunes, we were off to our last camp lunch. I got my friend's contact info, as next up the talented Paul Carrack from Mike and the Mechanics and Squeeze was to play and do a Q and A for the campers. This guy can sing, and play the Hammond in a very excellent way. He did "How Long" from another band he was in called Ace, and then did the Squeeze hit "Tempted" before finishing off with "In The Living Years" from Mike and the Mechanics. What a finish to our camp entertainment. Paul is a class act and earned our respect as a "musicians musician".
Off to the hotel next for some rest, and then of course get ready for the big final performance at Abbey Road. My band and one other had its last "rehearsal/recording session" at Abbey Road. We were going to be back at Studio 3 and it was time to record the talented Natascha, Jack Bruce's daughter on vocals on our original tune called "Rock Steady". I love producing and being the captain of the Star Trek Enterprise which is kind of what the studio looks like. The bridge of the space ship! We did the gang vocals first, and that was fun. The chorus in this original sticks to your bones rather quickly. We didn't have lots of time and Natascha was up next for her vocals. She is a real trooper and her Dad's genes are in that fine voice she has. I was so enthused to produce her, and in 40 minutes we had a final vocal all ready to have the Abbey Road engineers mix and put it away.
The other bands were coming in, as the big performance was up at 8PM sharp. Guests were invited and the excitement was strong as being in Studio One etc, is a treat for sure. We had the famous British singer Paul Young ("Every Time You Go Away") to judge, as well as Kiki Dee. (You remember her from the Elton John song, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". ) We used Studio 2 as a holding pen for the bands... how sweet was that. That room has magic in it. My band was up 6 out of 7 so we had time to kind of get nervous. Some of the performances were really great, some just cool as you can tell how much fun the campers have on stage after all the hard work for the 5 days of preparation.
It was time for "Cinco De Yayo" to get on stage and we started off with our speech from Yayo right into the Beatles classic, "Day Tripper". I was proud of the band. It was rocking. Next song "Bitch" by the Stones had Yayo leading the band like a Mexican Jagger! I loved it. Joan on keys couldn't hear the horn parts we had for her, so I ran to the monitor guy to get that happening. Next was me on bass to play the original "Rock Steady" with Natascha on lead vocal. It came off great and the magical 15 minutes were over. I was happy with the band, and happy for the reaction from the crowd.
One more band and the night was over sadly. But not before David Fishof, the promoter, surprised me with a special presentation of a framed art work drawing of me and a big thank you on stage for the work I have done with the camp. This UK one was my 5th! I was very pleased and I will share the art work with you once I get a pix of it. What a night for me and my band.
Next up was the counselor band lead by Spike Edney of QUEEN, with Spencer Davis, Jamie Moses, Simon Kirke, Neil Murray and Mick Ralphs jamming along on a few Beatle songs. We ended with the cool "With A Little Help From My Friends", with special guests Paul Young and these great backup singers that Spike works with. What an amazing end to the evening. Everyone was so thrilled to have experienced this event and it went so smooth and on time!
Last was the awards being given out. My band won best presentation and I agree with that. With my band being strong, and fronted by Yayo, it was a fitting award. Back to the hotel for some drinks at the bar, and say goodbye to the ones that couldn't do the LIVERPOOL / CAVERN trip the next day. That will be my next blog.
But I do want to thank my amazing band: Joan, Yayo, Charlie, Ed, John, and Scott for taking my direction and exceeding their own expectations. And of course the lovely Natascha for helping us out on the original song and working hard at the camp. The entire staff of the Fantasy Camp did an excellent job in the UK, including Tim from London, the Gibson rep, Sam, everyone at Abbey Road, and John Henry. All the special guests were amazing of course and I will NEVER forget jamming with Jack Bruce on day one at the camp.
Dreams come true at the Rock Fantasy Camp. Don't ever stop believing that.
PS - Thank you Julie Clark for pix and Ed Johnson's wife for taking some with my camera as well!
- Day 6: May 29, 2007-
Well as you all know, the 5 days of the Fantasy Camp were simply amazing. And no matter how exhausted we were, the next morning about half the camp signed up for a bonus day to Liverpool, birthplace of The Beatles. How cool is that! So off we were to the train station at 9 AM for a first class ride for 3 hours on Virgin Trains. Had a blast talking with everyone, resting, eating, and there even was a little jam with Spike Edney leading the gang singing Beatles songs like in the famous mop top movie, "A Hard Days Night". Fantasy Camp rocks the train!
We finally arrived and had a great lunch in a famous hotel near the train station. The architect apparently did The Titanic ballroom! The weather was picture perfect and soon as our meal was done it was off on the famous "Magical Mystery Tour Bus" for a guided tour of Liverpool. Neil, our tour guide, was funny and very attentive to our questions and what a magical time we had. We stopped at Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, drove by the birthplace homes of the fab four, and made an occasional pit stop to stretch our legs.
Liverpool was actually more upper class looking then I expected, but maybe it was the fact that I was so thrilled to be there. The people were really lovely and they speak the type of English that is ... well so Beatles like, I felt like I was hanging out with the band. Our last stop was the famous street that The Cavern Club is on. Actually the real Cavern is gone, but a new one created to copy the original one, was built across the street. We had some time to rest and eat and shop before the evening's entertainment would begin.
Our plan was everyone jamming on Beatles songs! How fitting. OK, we occasionally would go through a Spencer Davis tune or a WHO classic, but wow was it fun. I played guitar, some bass and tambourine, took pix, and sweated like a piggy for 2 hours! It was so much fun, and of course Spike and Jamie lead the charge, along with Neil on bass, and Simon on drums, with us swapping out campers to jam with us. Yayo from my band was finally able to show his chops on guitar by jamming on a few songs. Everyone told me to keep in touch with that young talent! We had some local talent pop in, even a blind drummer which made the cues a bit difficult, but we all loved the idea of playing great music in Liverpool.
The Cavern people treated us like rock stars and finally the dream was over and it was time for the sad bus ride to Manchester where we all said our final goodbyes. All of us were to leave for home from there in the morning. I got only a few hours of sleep, but off to the USA for BK. I ran into some campers at the airport and we couldn't stop talking about the week we shared. Brian was off to Ireland, and of course his life in the construction business will never be the same. That is what the camp does for everyone. Life changing, as you share such wonderful music and moments with people that are hard to explain.
For me it was back on the road a few days after my return... back to Earth to go play in the US with Grand Funk. But my memories of the camp, the campers, the special stars that visited, and the holy ground we hung at will forever be a part of me. Thank you all for sharing my amazing journey in the UK 2007.
PS - Don't forget you can always check out the Official Rock n' Roll Fantasy Camp Page for upcoming dates and locations!