Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stephen Stills' Manassas College Tour

X-Bird Chris Hillman and Manassas frontman Stephen Stills trade guitar licks in the spotlight from a concert tour of colleges and universities throughout the South. Locations included Austin & San Antonio TX, Baton Rouge LA, Oxford MS, Athens GA and Gainesville FLA. Upon each performance at the different campuses, Stills would come on stage wearing the football jersey representing the local university's football team while addressing the audiences by saying, "It's good to be back home." Making a direct connection with crowds endeared Stills and his band with campus audiences throughout the tour. All photos copyrighted (c) Phillip Rauls.

It wasn't so long ago that I'd pound my hands on the coffee table in keeping with the beat to a Stephen Stills song. Not to mention that I was in awe of his throaty hoarseness when reaching for a pure vocal pitch. How could he pull-off those difficult notes while consistently surrounding himself with world class musicians? Was this guy really that good? Yep, he sure was. Stephen Stills is truly a one-of-a-kind Superstar who charmed the great masses. In 1972, while working as the Atlantic Records advance man for the South, I was assigned to go on the road with Stephen Stills and Manassas with the task of knocking on doors alerting the media of his kick-ass tour coming to town. Plus, with camera in hand and adorned with traveling credentials, I was now part of the inner-circle of the Manassas entourage. Once on board it didn't take long for me to strike a bond with band members. That's when bassist Fuzzy Samuels took me under his wing and taught me how to roll up a big fat Jamaican doobie. Seemed that Fuzzy rolled out of bed every morning and fired one up before breakfast. Keyboardist Paul Harris and I became friends and hung out often. What a talent and a nice guy. Plus, pedal-steel guitarist Al Perkins and I became friends as it appeared he just enjoyed the company of just hanging-out with a fellow Southerner. He enjoyed chatting over lunch and dinner while talking about the Muscle Shoales rhythm section.

Pictured here is guitarist Chris Hillman, percussionist Joe Lala and Stephen Stills as they take bows after a show in Gainesville, Fla. On this tour the favorite pastimes for band members were Mexican food, killer weed and bottles of Mescal Tequila including the worm. After this particular show and while in a festive mood, I combined those three potent ingredients resulting in me doing a face-plant into Tom Petty's stereo system at a band party located on his farm in rural Florida. Later that evening and under the glow of the full moon at midnight we searched for mushrooms in a neighboring cow pasture. Thank God we didn't find any.
Can you believe this? While jetting to the next gig, Road Manager Buddy Zoloth of Stephen Stills is exasperated by a Rolling Stone Magazine article of the Stills album. Pointing on the left is Phillip while in disbelief of the critical review.

Manassas two albums on Atlantic were a powerful mix of Rock, Folk, Country, Blues and Latin rhythms. Chris Hillman's influence is strongly felt on the Bluegrass-oriented material yet the groups music occasionally leans Afro-Cuban. Both albums, cut at Criteria Recording Studio in Miami, were tastefully done but ended-up sounding like a Buffalo Springfield-Santana hybrid.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Radio & Record Relationship

Years ago when music was on vinyl and CD meant "Civil Defense," there was a long and successful relationship in the making. After the Second World War and Korean War, a great impetus spread across the nation creating newfound opportunities. American soldiers returned home from distant shores as they and their families moved around more freely and integrated throughout the country. Soldiers, both Black and White, who fought side by side in foreign countries, were exposed to different lifestyles and music and returned to the states with diverse humanitarian experiences. Each became more openly acceptable of cultures other than their own thus altering their social views. Within the larger cities, factories employed shift workers who continued in this inner-relationship of the masses which came together to spawn a new dawn for musical expression. In the late 1940's and early 1950's, Hillbilly Music began to spread from rural areas in the countryside into the larger Southern cities. Country radio provided the only broadcast available in some areas and was supported by mixed audiences. Already firmly entrenched into the fabric of consciousness was Blues Music, Jazz and Gospel. With segregation in existence, Black listeners were entertained by Country & Western radio while White audiences might tune-in the Blues. Musicians picked up on each others bipartite techniques thus creating a cross pollination of music styles. This infusion directly affected the components of each music tradition and pleasantly splintered a fusion of music thus resulting in a amalgamate of American music. At the same time, small record labels and recording studios began to pop-up while local radio's popularity spread like wildfire amongst the teenagers. A radio and record relationship would soon embark with a marriage created within Heavens transmitter. Call it Rock and Roll, Rockabilly or Soul Music, these songs were historic artifacts reflecting the social phenomenon taking place in the Deep South.

Control room photograph of WROX Radio in Greenville, MS by Tom Muck