Johnny Mathis has spent 60 years singing and recording the music he loves. He’s enjoyed unprecedented worldwide success and his hits have included “Chances Are,” “Wonderful Wonderful,” “Misty,” and “It’s Not For Me to Say.” He’s also been a pioneer at the same time – in ways you might not even realize. For instance, he was the first artist ever to release a Greatest Hits album.
He’s getting ready to celebrate his 80th birthday – and to commemorate, Columbia/Legacy Recordings has put together Johnny Mathis – the Singles, a 4-CD box set that brings together 87 non-LP tracks for the first time in one collection. We talk to the legendary vocalist about making an early career choice between sports and music, befriending basketball legend Bill Russell, working with Mitch Miller, and the stories behind some of his most-beloved songs.
Marshall Crenshaw first gained notoriety with his 1982 debut album which featured the MTV hit “Someday Someway.” A few years back, he came up with a unique way to deliver music to his fans – he set up a subscription service where, beginning in early 2013, he delivered six EP’s over the course of two years on both vinyl and digital downloads. Each EP had a formula – one new song, one cover song, and one reworked cover of an old Crenshaw composition, plus a bonus track.
Well, he completed that project, and now he’s decided to put the best of the series in an album form – hence #392 The EP Collection. We talk to Crenshaw about his thoughts on completing this project, why he decided to cover the Carpenters, and how under-appreciated Bobby Fuller’s music is.
Tommy Keene first gained national attention with his 1983 EP Places That Are Gone, which was a college radio hit, and earned him accolades from the Village Voice, among others. Since then, Tommy has churned out a catalog of excellent albums, collaborated with Rob Pollard of Guided By Voices, and toured with Paul Westerberg, but one thing has remained constant, his gift of melody. Tommy’s just released his 12th full-length is Laugh in the Dark. He definitely wears his influences a little more confidently on his sleeves this time around. He also discusses the great payola scandal of 1986.
Who did the first rock n’ roll song? It’s a discussion that music fans have had for over a half century. Well, it wasn’t Elvis or Bill Haley. A strong case can be made for Lloyd Price who wrote and recorded “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” way back in 1952. That song sent shockwaves through black, and white audiences alike, and started Price down some uncharted territory. A successful black entertainer was hard to find in the early Fifties, and he met up against deplorable discrimination, time and time again, even while he was having hit after hit, with songs like “Personality,” “I’m Gonna Get Married,” and the #1 smash, “Stagger Lee.”
Price chronicles these stories in a very frank autobiography called, “Sumdumhonky” from Cool Titles, He tells some great stories about the origins of both “Stagger Lee,” and “Personality,” and reveals how he helped Little Richard get his start.
We chat with Stony Plain head Holger Peterson about a new Jeff Healey compilation – The Best of the Stony Plain Years. Healey was an amazingly talented musician, best known for his 1989 top five hit “Angel Eyes.” He lost his sight at an early age, picked up the guitar at three, and developed an unique style of playing the instrument on his lap.
The Jeff Healey Band showcased his talents as a searing blues-rock guitarist, releasing a series of albums in the late Eighties and early Nineties. But, as the decade wore on, Jeff became increasingly weary of the trappings of the genre. Amazingly, he switched gears, teaching himself how to play trumpet and immersing himself in traditional jazz of the Twenties & Thirties. Thus began a new chapter in his musical career – he issued a series of classic jazz & blues albums in the 2000’s up until his untimely passing in 2008.
Peterson, who was a longtime friend of Healey’s discusses this new compilation, Healey’s deep love for classic jazz and blues, and other releases he has coming up for Stony Plain.
Saxophonist Jessy J is one of the hottest stars in Smooth Jazz, she’s hit #1 on the charts several times with her songs, and she’s collaborated with everyone from jazz legend Joe Sample to classic rockers Aerosmith. She’s just released her fifth album, My One and Only One – her most consistent record yet, featuring a great mix of Smooth Jazz with Latin & Pop elements. As typical, she’s brought in a few guests, this time around Paul Brown on guitar and Gregg Karukas on keyboards.
She also does a trio of fantastic cover songs – Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin’ Me High,” the Cure’s “Livesong,” and the Brothers Johnson’s funk classic, “Strawberry Letter #23.”
Bruce Kulick is best known for his 12-year, non-makeup stint in KISS – he played on five studio albums, including Asylum, Crazy Nights, Hot in the Shade, Revenge and Carnival of Souls. He was also featured on the MTV Unplugged video. Kulick has had a colorful career which included touring with Meat Loaf, recording with Michael Bolton and Billy Squier, and his most recent stint, as guitarist in the legendary Grand Funk Railroad.
But, his latest project goes back – way back to 1974 and his first band – KKB, featuring bassist/vocalist Mike Katz and drummer Guy Bois. “Got to Get Back” features six classic tracks, plus a brand new, powerful recording of the reunited band – 40 years later.
Indianapolis singer Tad Robinson has a knack for creating soul records that just sound effortless. We raved about his last record, Back in Style, from 2011. Now he’s back with another CD called Day Into Night. Once again, he’s achieved that perfect blend of smooth R&B featuring Robinson’s soulful vocals leading the way. We chat the recording process for his new CD, which features a guest appearance by Anson Funderburgh.
Chandler Travis and David Greenberger have had a musical friendship that’s lasted over 30 years. Bocce & Bourbon – the Comfortable Songs of Chandler Travis & David Greenberger sums up that partnership by culling songs from Travis’ multiple bands, The Incredible Casuals, The Chandler Travis Philharmonic, The Catbirds, and The Chandler Travis Three-O, with lyrics all penned by Greenberger. In addition, the two have collaborated on eight brand new tracks to add to this compilation.
Tom Chapin is a three-time Grammy-award winning artist who’s released 24 albums over his long career. He’s one of the few artists who’ve been able to lead a dual life as both a folk artist and popular childrens’ performer. His new album, 70, celebrates his milestone birthday with a diverse collection of acoustic-based tunes – socially-conscious tracks rub shoulders with heartfelt love songs. It’s a fitting summation of his 50 years as a performer. He tells us the story behind “Guitar Child,” a song that pays homage to some of his heroes.
He also talks about the great songwriter Steve Goodman, and why he chose to cover his “City of New Orleans.” In addition, we discuss his late brother, Harry Chapin, and his lasting impact as a social activist.