Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


Archive for March, 2009

Again with Billy Blanco?

Brazilian writer and recording artist, Billy Blanco, the junior one, saw my last post and got back to me about Leni Andrade, the great Brazilian singer, and Billy’s father, Billy Blanco, Sr., working together many years ago, in Brazil’s Bossa Nova era.

Billy Blanco, Sr., was, and still is, something of a national treasure in Brazil’s music scene, having written and performed songs all his life, several of which have made it into the canon of Brazilian popular/folk music.
“Praca Maua” is one of these, and according to Billy, Jr., was given its best vocal treatment, among many good ones, by Ms. Andrade, who performs with Paquito d/Rivera, the amazing clarinetist who just finished a run at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

If Billy, Jr., can compose and perform the way his father still does, he’ll carry on a tradition Brazil will undoubtedly cherish.

Billy Blanco on My Mind

Brazilian singer-musician Billy Blanco’s name kept coming up last week. First it was with musician- engineer Joe Knowlton, then with friends Donna Murphy and Shawn Elliott. Shawn had worked with Billy and me on many jingles.

Billy came to this country thirty some years ago to learn ‘60’s “rocknroll,” as he put it, with emphasis on the first syllable. He made his bones here playing piano and guitar for Yoko Ono on several music projects, performing with rock bands and on his own in clubs, and writing and producing with me on joint record projects.

Billy was gaining on the kind of career he wanted, i.e., one like John Lennon’s, Jimi Hendrix’s or his idol, “eltonjohn’s,” when he was forced to return to Brazil because of our immigration policies. We still keep in close touch by phone and email.

Joe & Bing, Then & Now

Shared a pizza and some music-biz news last nite with Joe Knowlton and my son, Max. Actually, Joe and I shared a pizza; Max had a pizza of his own.

Joe, as you might recall, was half of the Joe & Bing duo with partner Bing Bingham in the early ‘70’s. The soft-pop/folk-rock act had a contenda of an album, Daybreak, and some hot tour appearances that should have put them in the same ring with, say, Jimmy Buffet or the Carpenters. And why not? They were creative and original and had the Brazilian super-star Eumir Deodato producing and touring with them.

They have updated their material and are busy working on a new CD, Destiny, which they expect to be mixing by spring. Early tracks and rough vocals are sexy and exciting.

Personally, I’d love to see these guys regain the momentum and promise they showed in the roiling, boiling ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I know Bing from his jingle days. I’ve worked with Joe for, my God, almost two and a half decades, producing songs and commercials, and I’ve long felt he should have a place somewhere in the Hall of Pickin’ and Grinnin’.

Buck Owens’ Apology

Talking to a friend last nite about Robert Plant’s and Allison Krauss’ stirring version of Doc and Rosa Lee Watson’s “My Long Journey.” The conversation moved into how much the acceptance of cross-over country has changed, on both sides of the fence, Country and pop-rock. Shania Twain seems to have blurred the line enough to get an awesome number of fans in both camps, tho’ hard-line Country-heads think she’s a complete sellout.

It jolted me back to 1966, when Buck Owens, the premier Country & Western singer of the ‘60’s, had a huge Country hit, “Looks Like I Got a Tiger By the Tail,” inadvertently cross over into pop-land and become number one on those charts, too. His fans resented it so much that he had to offer up a mea culpa and ask their forgiveness.

I remember it because I’d played rhythm guitar with him and his band for a week in Bakersfield, his home turf, that year, just before the brouhaha started.

BTW, his fans forgave him.

What’s Jim Kweskin up to now?

Found out a friend o’ mine does business with Jim Kweskin’s construction company in Los Angeles. My wife reminds me that I once spent a night pickin’ with Kweskin, Fritz Richmond (the gut-bucket player in the Kweskin Jug Band) and Bobby Neuwirth, who became a very close confidant of Bob Dylan. Good example of the East-West cross-pollination via the “Berkeley-Cambridge Axis” of the early ’60’s. Kweskin being in the construction business surprised me; I didn’t know he was Italian.