The Gorge was a busy place this summer for concerts. Karla Bonoff was in Stevenson, but she didn’t stop by here at the Hood River News. I would have loved to ask her about what was it like working with Warren Zevon, and is she still in contact with Linda Ronstadt?
Michael McDonald did a show over at the Maryhill Amphitheater, too. But he didn’t stop by. I tried emailing, and sent interview questions along. I wanted to know what was it like working with Steely Dan? (Did you know he worked with Steely Dan?) Alas, no one answered.
But, a few weeks ago, Bruce Innes stopped by. I know, I didn’t know him either, but, he did stop by. He was up at the front counter, looking at our paper, inquiring about promoting his show coming up at the Columbia Center for the Arts on Friday (Sept. 26). I was brought into the conversation as I was coming back from lunch, and I gave him my card. He promised to send some stuff in later that week. And then it was on to the normal chaos of the day.
So when I get a few minutes, it’s off to the Internet to get some info about Bruce. He’s a singer/songwriter, who was in some kind of folk/rock band called “The Original Caste” in the mid to late 60s. Hmmm. Never heard of them. Wrote a hit song called “One Tin Soldier.” Nope, haven’t heard of that, either. Delving in a little further, Bruce has worked with and was friends with a whole host of musical folks – John Denver, country artists like Glen Campbell, Mickey Gilley and pop performer Ray Stevens. Hmmm. That’s interesting! (But why haven’t I heard of this guy before?)
So now we fast-forward a few days. You see, I’m a bit of a record collector. And, I know that they’re not called “records” any more, but hey, that’s what we called them, and that’s what I still call them. Anyway, lets just say that I’m “In the process of recording all of my records, cassette tapes, CDs, 8-tracks and any other “thing” that has music on it” onto a computer. After consciously avoiding the ipod for many years, I do have to admit, it’s really kind of cool, to have instant access to all these songs. However, the project is so immensely huge, we’re looking at a project completion date of 2015.
So, where were we? Oh yeah, Bruce. So I’m looking at one of my records. Hmmm. “Coats and Carlson.” Some sort of demo record, probably country or bluegrass, by the look of it. And I turn the cover over, to see what songs and such are on it. And there at the bottom, is a song credit, by B. Innes & D. Coats.
So I get to wondering, what are the chances of meeting someone at the office, and then going home and finding one of his songs on some out-of-print record, from over 30 years ago?
I guess that’s the magic of taking the time to stop by.
Read Jim’s interview with Bruce
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I emailed Bruce about that album, and then I sent along a few more questions, which he was nice enough to take the time to answer. His show is at the Columbia Center for the Arts on Friday, Sept. 26.
Talk about a blast from the past. Dennis Coats and Gary Carlson replaced the two original back-up singers in my group The Original Caste in the 70s and I continue to be great friends with them to this day. Dennis, probably the best 5-string player in the country at that time, now lives in Sandpoint, ID and still plays. He damaged his hands as a carpenter and has had to adopt a new style which is good but not nearly as electrifying as he was. I can remember an evening when he was performing with his bluegrass band, The Joplin Forte, at the Reuben E Lee in Newport Beach and I looked over at the front row and sitting open mouthed were Doug Dillard, Ben Keith, and Earl Scruggs. Amazing. Gary Carlson lives here and works with me to this day whenever I perform other than a single. He has discontinued his flatpicking over the years and now plays bass and has a wonderful sound. He has a Padulla and reminds me of Lee Sklar. He is a great guy.
Very best regards, Bruce Innes
Q. You’ll be playing a show in Hood River on Sept. 26. We’re located right in the middle of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. Have you ever been here and what connection brings you out here?
A. Actually, I thought Hood River was the Hood River Inn and a gas station, but I had this friend who had a home there and said it was one of the coolest places in the Northwest. So I googled “small theaters” and came up with the Columbia Center For The Arts”. This got me in touch with Jane Duncombe (a lovely lady). I was originally going to do a concert with my band, The Original Caste, but the bass player got sick and I had to cancel.
So then I decided to just do it by myself.
Q. You’ve worked with John Denver, and your web site reports that he was a (close?) friend of yours. What was it like to work with him? (I was personally saddened by his passing, and I can’t help but wonder how this affected you musically, too)
A. John was a good guy, Jim. As a mandolin player, you would have loved him. He had a great voice and a great sense of time and he was content letting skilled instrumentalists play over his rock solid time. Because he was such a good singer, he was kind of short with background singers and was an absolute hawk on pitch. Out of tune singers didn’t last very long with him. I sang backgrounds on his Rocky Mountain High CD and we had a great time in NYC doing that. As far as his musical influence - we both started out as folk singers working at Leadbetters in LA. We both had that sort of guitar/vocal deal going - and John played very limited piano. I was more trained and so piano was much more a part of my performance. He was a flat picker, primarily rhythm, and I’m a finger style player so when we played together I always thought we were pretty good. After the Rocky Mountain High CD, he became hugely famous and I saw him less and less - but talked to him often on the phone. Wish he was still here.
Q. I must admit, I’ve never heard the song “one tin soldier,” but the song apparently gave you the means to tour. What other bands did you work with/tour with/ open shows for?
A. One Tin Soldier was sort of an anthem - and still continues to be - for peace on earth. Funny part of it was, it was actually written as a fairy tale - not an anti-war song. It certainly did get me around the world. To this day I get letters and phone calls from people in all walks of life - teachers, parents, journalists, camp counselors, asking me if the song really means what THEY think it means. I always say yes.
I worked a lot with Glen Campbell and Jim Seals and Dash Crofts - and an array of Hollywood/LA music business people. I started my career touring with Josh White and enjoyed rubbing elbows with The Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Richard and Karen Carpenter, and a myriad of 70s rock performers — from Three Dog Night to Willie Nelson.
Q. What year was the song “I Hate It, but I’ll drink it anyway” recorded (with coats/carlson)?
A. I wrote “I Hate It, But I Drink It Anyway” with Dennis Coats when I was working with Mickey Gilley. Gilley immediately recorded it on his Flying High album. I like the choruses – I thought the verses were really bad.(1978)
Q. You recorded an acoustic album last year. How has the recording process changed since you first started recording with bands?
A. The recording process has not changed for me. I have a complete analogue recording studio with a Rupert Neve Amek console and I love the sound of everything about it. What has changed for me is the editing process. I no longer cut tape, but edit everything in Pro Tools. Anybody that tells you digital recording is as good as analogue has invested heavily in digital because - as you know - the gear you have is the best gear in the world. I can hear the difference between my $35,000 MCI analogue multi-track recorder and a $600 digital interface - but then that’s just me.
Jim, I insist that you come to the concert. We can go out for a nog afterward. Thank you for help and your interest.
Very best personal regards,
More thoughts from Bruce:
It was nice meeting you the other day and I am putting a blues CD in the mail to you today. I do a fair amount of acoustic blues in my concert along with some original stuff and some humorous takes on the human condition. I was interested to hear that you play mandolin - the mandolin player I use when I perform with my back-up band just purchased a Gilchrist so he is absolutely destitute and will be for a long time. It is an absolutely beautiful instrument, however. I first saw one in Nashville when I used Aubrey Haney on a session. And the last time I saw Matt Flinner I think he was playing a Gilchrist as well - although it may have been a Flatiron. As I said when we met I hope you can come to the concert. I think you will enjoy it. If you get a chance to mention the concert in the entertainment section, there is a wealth of information (most of it propaganda) at www.bruceinnes.com. I really liked Hood River - very picturesque. From the highway I thought it was basically a motel and a McDonalds but it really is nice - as is the theater. Hope we get more time to chat when I get over at the end of the month.
Very best regards,
Thanks Bruce Innes, for a great show the other night. The program was really upbeat, with a good variety of blues, originals, and some of your favorites by other artists. You’re right, that piano at the Columbia Arts Center does need work, maybe they’ll realize that the instrument rattle needs to be fixed!
I always enjoy learning about where different songs come from, and you really took me by surprise with your version of “Old ’55.” I know it off of the Eagles album “On the Border,” but it was really cool to learn that your friend Tom Waits taught it to you back in the early 70s. What a treat!
Keep in touch, and I look forward to meeting up with you and your band next time you’re in town.
Bruce’s setlist for 9-26-08
Early Morning Rain
One Tin Soldier
Mean To Me
Georgia On My Mind
Few Old Friends
Black Snake Moan
Trishia Jacobs comments on the Bruce Innes show:
Our man bruce....and an ape:)
Bruce Innes was briefly mentioned as a friend of Hunter S. Thompson's in his book Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (novel). In the text, Bruce phoned Hunter Thompson from Circus-Circus, a Las Vegas casino that he performed at, and told him that he had located the owner of an ape that Hunter wanted to purchase. Innes then persuaded Hunter not to buy the ape after it assaulted a patron of the bar and was arrested.