On Tour With My Guitar Heroes, Part 2: Dave Mason
Well, it’s been a while and apologies are in order. This installment of my GuitarWorld.com blog was meant to be posted in the beginning of September as the second half of a two-part blog titled, “On Tour With My Guitar Heroes; Rick Derringer, Mark Farner and Dave Mason."
The first part covered Rick Derringer and Mark Farner. This second part will be dealing with Dave Mason. If you haven’t already done so, you can read the first part right here.
For those of you who aren’t quite sure as to who Dave Mason is, let’s just mention a few of his accomplishments to the music world.
In 1967, he formed the English rock band Traffic along with Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi. Although he often came and went from the group, he contributed a great deal to their first few albums, including Mr. Fantasy, Traffic and Welcome To The Canteen.
He wrote the well-known classic rock song “Feelin’ Alright,” which was recorded by Traffic, as well as Joe Cocker and Three Dog Night.
He played the 12-string acoustic guitar heard prominently on the opening of Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” and sang backup on “Crosstown Traffic” on the Electric Ladyland album.
In December of 1969, Dave hopped onto a tour with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett along with other band members Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock and Carl Radle (who later became Derek and The Dominoes). Also along on this tour were special guests Eric Clapton and George Harrison. A live album titled Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour with Eric Clapton was released March 1970 on Atco Records.
From May to September of 1970, this same entourage of musicians also helped in the recording of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. Dave was also a member of Eric Clapton’s group Derek and The Dominoes and even performed live with them on their first gig on June 14, 1970, at London’s Lyceum Theatre.
In 1977, Dave released “We Just Disagree,” which went to No. 12 on the U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Dave recorded and released more than a dozen studio and live albums as a solo artist in the '70s alone.
From 1993 to '95, Dave recorded and toured as part of a temporary lineup of Fleetwood Mac along with Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, Billy Burnett and Bekka Bramlett (Delaney and Bonnie’s daughter).
OK, my introduction to Dave came when I accidentally stumbled upon him in 1972. I was heavily getting into Eric Clapton and collected as many of his recordings as I could find. A compilation album called The History Of Eric Clapton contained the Dave Mason-penned track “Only You Know And I Know” from the previously mentioned Delaney & Bonnie On Tour album. I was already familiar with the song, “Feelin’ Alright” from hearing the Three Dog Night version off their live album, Captured Live At The Forum released in October 1969 although, I was unaware that someone named Dave Mason had written and recorded it with Traffic a few years prior.
The next time I was introduced to Dave was in 1975, hanging out with some girls I knew previously from my art classes in high school. The girls were attending Southampton College in Long Island and my friends and I would sometimes take a ride out and visit them. Several of Dave Mason’s solo albums were in constant rotation around their dormitory rooms. I remember my ear being grabbed often by his lead guitar technique, which I thought was very reminiscent of Clapton. I was also digging the fact that he was mostly playing a Gibson Reverse Firebird with a tremolo arm.
That same year, I got to see Dave and his band perform live at the Dr. Pepper Music Festival in Central Park in New York City. This was a summer concert series that hosted outdoor shows during the '70s. Tickets were usually priced from about $2.50 to $6.50. I also saw Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, John McLaughlin, Todd Rundgren, Al DiMeola and many others at this same hell-of-a bargain-priced concert series.
The next time I was to see Dave was in 2003 when my band opened for him at the now-defunct Downtown club in Farmingdale, Long Island. At the time, I was doing an evening of Eric Clapton’s music (a show that I’ve been doing very successfully for more than 10 years). After the show that evening, some mutual friends of Dave and me introduced us, and later that week, we met up again at someone’s house in Edison, New Jersey.
We had a nice jam in the living room and Dave asked if I would like to fill in on a few shows for his second guitarist, who needed time off to resolve some health issues. I remember we played at NYC’s B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, a fundraiser for the Boomer Esiason Foundation at some hotel in the Wall Street area. I believe we also played the Downtown in Farmingdale again. The gigs were a blast, and one of my fondest recollections is trading blues licks back and forth with Dave during his version of “Dust My Blues."
As musical director for the Hippiefest Summer tours, I was delighted to hear that Dave would be joining our 2011 lineup. He brought his current band on the road for the main run in the summer but opted to use my band for the shorter five-show October run. After hearing us backing up Felix Cavaliere, Rick Derringer, Mark Farner and Gary Wright all summer, Dave was confident enough to suggest we back him as well for these last five shows.
Traveling and hanging with Dave these past few months has not only been fun but educational and inspirational as well. His singing voice and guitar playing is better than ever and after more than four decades as a working musician, he remains a true artist and professional.
Dave performs “Poor Elijah” live with Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock and Delaney & Bonnie on “The Price Of Fame” television show:
The entire entourage of the Hippiefest Summer tour (even the bus drivers), join Dave Mason onstage at the end of the night for “Feelin’ Alright” on the last night of the tour at the Arena Theatre, Houston, Texas, on September 2: