Billy Vera has spent his entire life in the entertainment business. Although he is best known for his 1987 surprise #1 hit “At This Moment,” he’s also had roles in many movies and TV shows, and he’s written and performed some of the themes for those TV shows. But, it doesn’t stop there.
Vera has had a long career as a voice-over announcer, so odds are you’ve probably heard him at one time or another. He’s also an avid record collector and music historian who’s penned the liner notes to many collections and box sets, even winning a Grammy for his work on a Ray Charles set. His twists and turns are documented in his new book, Harlem to Hollywood from Backbeat Books.
He talks about what he learned from having both of his parents in the entertainment business growing up, how the first song he ever got published became a hit for Ricky Nelson. We also discuss what it was like winning over the hard-to-please crowd at the legendary Apollo Theater, getting signed to Atlantic Records, and writing a #1 hit for Dolly Parton.
Of course, we save room to get the story behind how the TV show Family Ties helped propel a six-year old non-hit of his to the top of the charts.
Warren Zevon was the very definition of the enigmatic artist. In Accidentally Like a Martyr: The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon (Backbeat Books), author James Campion attempts to separate the man from the myth by first analyzing the lyrics in several of his songs, then by talking with the family, friends and colleagues who knew him best. Campion secured interviews with Zevon’s ex-wife, and kids, plus J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, and many others.
We chat with the life-long, self-proclaimed “Zevon-head” about doing a book on his favorite artist, plus how he tracked down all the great interviews for the book. We also discuss how Zevon felt about his one, smash hit “Werewolves of London.”
Kinky Friedman is an American original. The cigar-smoking, self-proclaimed “Jewish cowboy” has done it all – he’s toured with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and been onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. He’s hobnobbed with John Belushi and Willie Nelson. Then, when his music career waned, he became a novelist, penning numerous mystery novels and non-fiction books.
He also ran for governor of Texas (garnering a whopping 1/2 million votes) and is an advocate for animal rights. Truthfully, there’s so many layers to the man who’s real first name is Richard. Author Mary Lou Sullivan tries to uncover things in Everything’s Bigger in Texas – the Life & Times of Kinky Friedman from Backbeat Books.
Sullivan talks about the similarities and differences between Friedman and her other biography subject, the late Johnny Winter. Plus, she reveals some of the obstacles she had to overcome to complete the book and get the real story of a man shrouded in myth.
John Hall has been able to live two distinctly different lives. In one, he led the Seventies soft-rock outfit Orleans, co-writing their two big hits “Dance With Me” and “Still the One.” In the other, he was a US Representative for New York’s 19th District from 2007 to 2011. John’s just put out his memoir, Still the One: A Rock n’ Roll Journey To Congress and Back.
In it, we find several times where his two worlds intersect. We also find out how he struck up a friendship with Janis Joplin, and also had a large hand in the No Nukes concerts that featured heavyweights like Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.