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John Berry Back From The Brink

Posted November 2019

JohnBerry001Baby boomers and long-time country music fans are likely quite familiar with country artist, John Berry. He took the 1990’s country charts by a storm with huge hits as Your Love Amazes Me, She’s Taken a Shine and Standing on the Edge of Goodbye. Twenty of his singles hit the country charts with six of them hitting the top five and the three aforementioned tunes hitting number one on a variety of charts.

According to his website, JohnBerry.com, “he has earned multiple Gold and Platinum records over the years. John was nominated for the ACM Top New Male Vocalist in 1994, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel Vol. 1, was nominated for another Grammy in 1995 for his smash hit Your Love Amazes Me and was nominated for the CMA Horizon Award and Top Male Vocalist Award in 1995. In 1997 he was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year (for Long Haired Country Boy with Charlie Daniels and Hal Ketchum) and in 2013 John was nominated for the Mainstream Country Male Artist by the ICM Awards. And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, he even sang a duet with the late, great Patsy Cline.”

In more recent years, his annual Christmas tours are a recurring hit for the thousands during the holidays with fans coming back each year. Maybe it has something to do with his delivery of the Christmas classic, O’ Holy Night.

Despite all of that success, John and his family were hit with hardships including John knocking on death’s door not once but twice with the second time being just earlier this year.

I met John at a Nashville area theater where he was about to shoot a video for use in his concerts (more about that in a few moments). We talked about his recent victory over tonsil cancer, other key events in his life, among other things.

But anyway, how are you feeling, man? Have you had a rough year at first? Yeah. Yeah.

“The first five months of this year, if I had to do that again, I don't if I would. That was pretty tough. But things are getting better, improving, and starting to gain a little weight back. I hope I control that. I don't wanna be bigger than Elvis, or anything. Ha! Ha! I've been able to eat a little bit more.”

When I asked if he had completed all of the necessary treatments, he responded:

“Yeah, all that ended. That was seven weeks. Started mid-February. I did seven weeks of five days a week for radiation. So, thirty-five radiation treatments and once a week for chemotherapy. So, seven chemotherapy treatments. 'Sucks' is not quite strong enough. People talk about how sick it makes you and make in the first two weeks. I was, like, 'What are you talking about?' Third week, 'This is easy.' I mean, it's a little bit uncomfortable and all that. Week four was a whole new ball game. It started really kicking in strong in the fourth week, fifth week, man. And then from the fifth week, fifth, sixth and seventh week was unbelievable.”

What Berry said next shook me to my core.

“As a matter of fact, I'm a gun guy. Lots of guns. Don't be breaking into the Berry house! But I told Robin, I said, 'Here's all my clips. Put them away where I don't know where they are.' It was that bad. Yeah.

“What kicked it over the edge was some kind of dry heave that would just be uncontrollable. It was the most horrifying thing. It was like out of a horror movie. And finally, this disgusting, green, vile, fluid was coming out. It ends up that its gallbladder fluid. I hacked so hard and so violent; you just excrete this fluid that tasted like it was from the depths of hell. It was unbelievable. It was so scary. First time it happened, we were in the car just leaving the pharmacy after treatments that day. And we were in the car up here in Gallatin and heading home. And all of a sudden it just - Robin thought I was fixin' to die. It was so violent. But man, when that kicked in - it would kick it several times a week. About three weeks of that. I was never so happy to be done with some type of treatment in my life.

“Then, I see children are going through cancer treatments and elderly people that are going to the knowing that they're having to face that kind of stuff. It breaks my heart, man.”

Obviously, I had to ask what got him through that hell. John’s answer was instant and unequivocal.

“God got me through it.

“There's that wonderful verse in Philippians 4:13, 'I do all things through Christ who strengthens me' and not just physical Courtesy of Trinity Broadcasting Network Photog Kris Rae 3Courtesy of Trinity Broadcasting Network - Photo Kris Raestuff, emotional and spiritual stuff. That's the verse that Robin and I clung to. But knowing that as tough as it was - I mean, I've been through I've had faced a lot of battles in my short life and God's been faithful to me. The other side has always been worth what I've had to fight through.

It's funny. The night I got the diagnosis, we actually went down on January 4th for an appointment. All this came about because a year ago, right at a year ago now, we were recording Thomas Road, getting it wrapped up. But while we were recording in October and first part in November had this tickle in my throat. I explained it, like I had the skin of a Spanish peanut stuck in my throat. Wow. Exactly what it felt like. Just annoying. I couldn't drink enough to get it washed down. It was driving me nuts.

Finally, I went to a doctor. He said, 'Oh, you have tonsil infection.' A round of antibiotics. Finished up the album, started the Christmas tour. Midway through the tour, I never lost the note. It was just driving me crazy. I got another round of antibiotics. Finished up the tour, got home, still the same thing. Hadn't gotten any worse. Hadn't gotten any better.

Finally, I got a flashlight and looked in the mirror; shined it in my throat and looked in the mirror and my tonsils are, like, huge! I was, like, 'What in the world is that?' I said, 'Robin, come look at this. It's like a big ol’ tumor.' She looked at it and she tried not to scare me with her response. She said, ‘We’re going to call and get you in to see a specialist!’

“So, they got me in to see Dr. Spire at St. Thomas West. I walked in and Dr. Spire - his said, 'It sure is good to see you again.' And I said, 'When did I see you the last time?' He said, 'You wouldn't remember.' He said, 'I was an intern with Dr. Ossoff in 1997 when you had vocal cord surgery. I was in on that surgery.'

“So, here God's put a man in line who knows that I'm a singer and that this is my livelihood. We need to address it. We talked for a few minutes about what was going on and all that. He said, 'Well, let's take a look.' And he took a flashlight. Looked down my throat. Turn the flashlight off. He said, 'I'm a no B.S. guy. It looks like cancer to me.'

“You could push me over a feather. I mean, I mean that's nothing in the realm that had ever entered my mind. Never. Not once. My bass player, Mike Steele, had the same cancer last summer - the summer before me. So, he is just coming back to work in the Fall and did the Christmas tour with us.

“And now I got the same thing. You know, it's just unimaginable. No history of cancer in my family except my sister had breast cancer. But as far as any other, I can't think of any relatives who've died from lung cancer or whatever. It's just not that kind of history. And so, when he said cancer, I was like, 'Are you sure?' And he said, 'Well, we'll do a biopsy. I've been doing it a long time. I can pretty well tell you that's what it is.' So, they took the tonsils out. They took both of them out. And of course, one of them - that tickle in my throat was a tumor leaning against the back of my throat, just touching it.

“That's what it was.”

“The other tonsil had a tumor developing in it. So that was coming. With both tonsils having tumors, malignant tumors, they were real aggressive with the treatment. They wanted to be sure they burn up everything that they could burn up. It's funny, the last week of treatments, radiation treatments, we were in there and my neck was real leathery from the radiation. But there was a white stripe right here. Robin asks the doctor, 'Is he OK? That white stripe?' He said, 'It is funny that it looks like that. But what we did is we bent the radio waves to go around his vocal cords.' They told me that they'd plot a course and take those waves around vocal cords. So that skin ended up not getting zapped. Isn't that crazy? They would just radiate and get everything they can get. That's pretty cool.”

Photo Credit Just Kaicles Photo by Just Kaicles John gave advice for those who are going through tough battles, especially medical ones.

“Well, it's a real spiritual thing. All circumstances Are used for good or bad. They'll either draw us closer to God and more in touch with God and more in tune with God and what He wants for our lives and those opportunities to get to know Him better; not for Him to get to know us better because He knows us better than we know ourselves; but for us to grow in Him or go the other direction. One or the other. We're not going to stay the same.

“And so, whatever circumstance you're in, it's going to be used for good or bad. Whether your car broke down on the way to work today and how you handle it, it's going to be used for good or bad. You go to the doctor and you get a cancer diagnosis. It's going to be used for good or bad. How do you choose? What direction do you want to go with the challenges in your life? I don't believe that God goes, 'Ooo, John. Cancer.' I just think that it was in my genes. It's just ‘there it is’, you know. But what do we do with it? What do we do with what comes our way?

John continued by sharing a story about a huge financial hit that he and his family experienced.

“We've we lost everything we had in 2009, 2010, financially. The stock market crash in 2008. It's funny, we started construction on our house and the end of that week, the stock market tanked. It wasn't a small house, and, for us, it was a lot of money. It wasn't crazy, stupid money but it was a $500000 house or something like that and a lot of property around it. We just, like everybody, said, 'It's gonna get better.' And we kept plugging away. Then, a few months later, the first thing we realized was that, what happens, is the first thing that gets dumped is singers coming to town. So, all of a sudden, the work has dried up. We ended up having - we finished the house up and we ended up letting it go and land and the bus and everything.

“But God used the circumstances to draw closer to Him. It could have been good or bad. We could have been all pissy about it. I look at it as the best thing ever happened to me.

“So, here we are. Well, see. That was 2000, everything finalized in 2011. So, eight years away and our family's as solid as it's ever been or better - better than it's ever been. And, you know, God has been good to us. And so, we just that that's the biggest thing. Whatever challenge, whatever the challenges are. And, you know, when I was a kid.”

Berry then shared some insights into his younger, formative years.

“I just I just had some issues growing up. And then I was, I guess, right at 20 years old, got run over by car riding a motorcycle; broke my legs and my hip. That was in November, November 8th of 81, January of 81, my mother passed away. I was a really young 20-year-old, really young, and still lived at home with my folks. I didn't go to college. I just I just didn't go. And my dad had helped me build a recording studio in the basement of my folks’ house. And I just had a setup down there. It's just where I lived. My own entrance and exit. I'd come and go as I wanted to. No reason to go anywhere. Great folks.

“My mom died in January of that year and my dad moved out. He just couldn't come home. They've been married 34 years and he just couldn't they couldn't be there. A lot of times I'd see him pull up to the house and just keep going. He couldn't pull into the driveway.

“My brother came home for a little while, but then he went back to college and I ended up living in my folks house for a Photo Credit Just Kaicles 5bPhoto by Just Kaiclesnumber of years after my Dad moved out eventually, for good. And I ended up living in that house until he moved to Athens in eighty-five. So, yes, another full 4 1/2 years.

“I lived in Athens, Georgia, and that's where I lived most of my life there. And that's where I met my wife, Robin, and all our children were born there. It's a neat town and a great place to raise a family. When we talk about home, that's what we're talking about. Athens's is home. We had a farm outside of Athens for many, many years and I wish we still had it. Talk about can't even drive by a place. That's me, I can't even drive by there. It breaks my heart. I wish I still had it.”

Our chat then segued about the filming that was taking place in that night in the theater we were in.

“ We're recording a video that will play after the final song or the final song of the last song of the set before the encore - should we and hopefully get called back for an encore - this video will play instead of me coming out and talking, This is going to be because I'm not going to talk about my cancer during the show, during the night. But we're going to put this video together and talk about that and what God has done in my life and use that.

“The guys who are doing it are from Long Hollow Baptist Church where my wife and I are members. And I don't know if you know anything about Long Hollow Baptist Church - It's a massive church. Robby Gallaty is the pastor. Robby's from Chattanooga been in Chattanooga for a number of years. He's from New Orleans. He was in Chattanooga for a number of years. And then he was called to come up here. He's a great pastor and has a great team.

“I was talking to the guy who's going to be producing this clip. And he said, ‘Our goal is to get about twenty-five minutes worth of great conversation.’ And he said he'll edit into three and a half minutes of sheer power video. They show these videos at church. They're fabulous. They're so good at it. They use good angles. Good ‘feels good’. Good vibes They ask the questions in such a way that, you know, that the answer has the question in them. So, you never hear them asking the question. You know what I'm talking about. They have great guys doing the editing. They know how to edit and put it together right.

“They were talking about shooting it at our house. I said, 'You know, everybody sits in a theater coming to a concert to see us. Let's sit in a theater and shoot this.' So, they rented this place for the day. We just thought it'd be a great opportunity to have a real concise me-not-stumbling-over-what-I'm going-to-say story at the end of the night and then we'll close the show.

“There's a song on our cd, Thomas Road. It's a song called, 'Why Didn't I?' Barry Weeks was one of the writers on it. And, you know, it's a powerful song. 'Words I should have spoken, things I should've said, why didn't I?' And there's lots of scenarios in there. It's just a powerful piece of music. And so, this video will lead into us be onstage doing this song. So, we're excited about that.”

With everything John told me, it begged the question: Is he going to write a book about it all?

“My manager Brian's been badgering me, almost with a hammer and nail in my head, to get me to write a book. I don't know. I wrote a chapter. I wrote the chapter, ‘Thomas Road’, which is the road I grew up on down in Decatur, Georgia, that's reallPhoto Credit Just Kaicles 2Photo by Just Kaiclesy where we're from - from eight-years-old, seven-years-old to thirteen-years-old and a very formative time in my life. Wonderful time. And there are some good things that happened. There are some tough things that happened there. I wrote a chapter just to see what it was and just have a few people look at it and see what their thoughts are. I've had a few people look at it, but unfortunately, they all love me, and they think it's fabulous. So, it would be nice to get someone to look at it who don't know me, don't like me, don't know to like me; to have somebody look at it and read that chapter, see if it holds their attention; see if they want to hear anymore."

“John St. Augustine. He was on Oprah's radio network for a long time and he's written a lot of books. He was really, really close friends with John Denver and John Denver is one of my favorite people in the world and favorite musicians. There was an anniversary coming up of the passing of John and I went to Chicago and did the radio show with him and ever since then, we've just been pretty good friends. So, he just came out with a new book this past two weeks or so and he's (John’s manager) been talking to Brian some about coming down and just sit with down me for a few days and just talking and reporting and coming up with an outline; do some things and let him run with it and see what he comes up with.”

John then talked a little bit about his CD, Thomas Road.

“The cd was a lot of fun and it was great to work with Chuck Howard, again. Chuck produced all the records I had radio success with. And it was a lot of fun to work with, Chuck. And he brought Barry Weeks into work with us. And Berry was awesome. It all came about because Chuck had a song that he produced. It was written by a girl here in Gallatin, Jenny Slate Lee. What's Jenny's father's name? It's John Slate. Anyway, Chuck - he produced this movie. It's a true story about the genocide in Rwanda in the late - mid late 90s.

“Of course, I didn't know there was a genocide in Rwanda. I was busy having babies and hits. We were all running up down the road, going crazy and, plus, I had a little brain surgery mixed in there - which I don't recommend unless you really need it.

“Basically, one group of people didn't like the other group of people and they slaughtered them. Over a million people lost their lives in a very short period of time. I mean, a horrific, horrific story; true story. This story is about three families - a family in Franklin, Tennessee, and two families in Rwanda - and the tapestry that God weaves for these three families literally that saved each other's lives in different ways.

It starts by these two young girls writing each other. Then the family in Franklin decide they're gonna go to Rwanda to visit because the little girl here in Franklin started became a teenager getting a little out of control. It's like, 'Maybe we just need to get away from the influences here. Let her see a different side of life.' They go to Rwanda, Africa on a trip and they get to meet this other family. They’re there when it's post-genocide.

“It's just a remarkable, true story. One of one of the families from Rwanda lives here now in Nashville - the Nolensville area. Photo Credit Just Kaicles 3Photo by Just KaiclesThey have a mission there and they help refugees get acclimated to U.S. culture, find jobs, find housing, all that. They give every Thursday - I think it is - or the first Thursday of the month or something - the number of diapers they give away is astounding. Thousands of thousands of them. And they have music class, guitar class and stuff and just different things that keep them doing more positive things than getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. So, they're real active.

“When I got the rough cut of this movie that Chuck Howard sent me, I watched the rough cut. I was like - the scenes with the genocide's taking place - it's so realistic. It's horrifying. I called him and I said, ‘I'm in', and I hadn't even heard the song, yet.

'Beautifully Broken' is the title track. But in the meantime, I sent the rough cut of the film to my son's father-in-law in Texas, who's become a dear friend. He's a fine Christian man and said, 'Take a look at this. See what you think, faith wise and how it stands up.' He called me back and he said, 'Man, it's awesome.' "He said, 'It's a great story. Good faith story, good message, everything.' He said, 'But you know what's really cool?' I said, 'What's that?" He said, 'You know the scene where they're at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa?' I said, yeah. He said 'That's where we're flying into on our mission ship mission trip in July. You want to go?'

“So, a year ago July, we went and there we're getting off the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa, where this all took place. The first thing we did, we went to the Rwanda Genocide Museum and Memorial. And we took the tour. And it was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. It was a great setup for what we were about to go do that week because we had an understanding of what the culture had been through in the past 20 years. Just 20 years ago - twenty-five years ago! And one of the things that really hurt me the worst is there was a story, pictures and all this of where all these people went into the church and hid and the clergy from the church told where they were and they were all slaughtered in the church. I don't know why but they'll get theirs.

“Then, when it's all over with, you walk outside and there's this kind of a garden area and there's three slabs of concrete at each one about the size of a tennis court and you're like, 'I wonder what the heck that is?' And there's a memorial you read and there's a quarter of a million people buried there; what to do with all the bodies? A quarter of a million people. That's like taking Athens, Georgia, with the University of Georgia and the entire surrounding area, seven, eight counties, and killing everybody. Even more than that. I don't think there's that many people there. Just because I couldn't get along. It's amazing what hate will do. It was quite a trip. It was quite remarkable and quite remarkable to be a part of that scene; what the other side of the world does.

Photo Credit Just KaiclesPhoto by Just KaiclesAs for Berry’s TV show, he said, “We did two seasons, so we'd love to do it again. We're going to propose it around a couple of places and see if we can get somebody interested and help us put it together again. I know there's some new network things popping up. So, if there's some interest . . . because it sure was a lot of fun. And as much fun as I had doing it - and I know the audience thoroughly enjoyed it, the artists - every show, every taping, the two weeks we taped for season one, we did a week. In season two, we did a week - they were just like, 'Man, this is so cool. You got to keep doing this somehow.' I'd love to figure out a way of doing it. You know, we could do it if the publishing wasn't so expensive. It's insane. Crazy.

“Who would've thought that, for a little cable TV show - I mean, how many people watch cable TV? It's not like a network show on cable. It's just a little cable show, you know. And it's like, 'You're kidding, right?' They were gonna make me pay royalties on songs I'd written; get clearance on them. 'You're crazy. I wrote that dag gone song!”

Because of those comments, I asked John if he thought the music business was broken and, if he were made “Music Czar”, what would he do to fix it.

“I don't think the music is broken. I think the music is evolving. And that's what music does. It follows trends. It follows fads and what tells what good music is, is time. What are you still listening to thirty years later? You can tell real quick because of all the music came out in 1978 - I'm not listening to a lot of disco. It was fun when it was out. It was a fad, and everybody went dancin' and all that kind of stuff.

“It's going to evolve and it's going to - and that's the thing about it, especially about rock and roll music. It's all experimentation. It's all experimenting. And you can't go getting all high and mighty, 'It ain't what we're used to. That ain't rock and roll.' It is. It is what they want it to be.

“That's the whole thing about it. You don't put any rules on it. If you go putting rules on it, then you're being what you are fighting against back in the 60s. Don't be putting rules on it. Let the kids do what they want to do. Time will tell. If it's not what you want to listen to, find something else to listen to. I don't like it. I don't. There's not a lot of modern-day music that I listen to, but I'm 60 years old and you know? I listen to what I like. And I find new things that I like from time to time. But let the youngsters go, do what they want to do. And if and if radio wants to play it, let him play it. And if the audience doesn't like it and the radio keeps playing it, let them die by what they put, let them live or die by it. But, you know, the way the format is or the form the technology is, you can find what you want to listen to.

“The only fix I would find for the music is the business part of it and being sure that guys and girls that write the songs get paid for. There are songwriters I know that are not turning in any more songs. They're just not going to turn them in. They're closing out the publishing deals and fulfilling their obligations and they're not going to write for publishers anymore. They're going to write their songs, are going to hold on to them until the tide turns, until they can earn - I mean, why write a song like 'The Dance', and turn that sucker into a publishing company who's going to get it recorded by somebody and it's going to get 4.5 billion plays on Spotify and you're going to make enough money to go buy a burger, you know? Just hold on to that baby man because it's going to turn. Somebody is going to figure out how to monetize it for the songwriters.

“If I was going to change anything about music business, that's what I do: figure out how to monetize it for songwriters and also, I'd figure out how artists don't have to pay for everything. You know? They just do it; they pay for everything!

“I mean, it's like me. I paid for my albums through my royalties. I had to pay back the advances from my work. So, if you loan me money to record my album, and I pay you back for that album through my royalties, I pay the advances back, shouldn't I own that album? Oh, no, never. You don't ever own it.

“That’s one thing is that Buck Owens - he was always - he was a very nice to me - and he said, 'Whatever you can do, if you can ever get a hold of your masters, get them.’ He said, 'If you ever record and you can pay for the masters and you own them yourself, own your masters.' He says, 'It's like real estate.' It's true. It's a weird business model, but it's a business model that's been refined like a real estate contract. Over the years and years and years, refined by the people who are in the business all the time. Because people buying real estate - who don't buy a lot of real estate - they buy a house three in a lifetime. You know what I'm saying? They don't have much experience in it. But the people that are developing those real estate contracts, they're in it 24 hours a day and they have been for years and they’ve got those contracts dialed in. Same thing with entertainment. They’ve got lawyers out there just tweaking those things.

“I had an offer come across my desk in recent history - couple of years ago where they wanted to sign me. They literally made an offer for whatever the percentages were. They were good percentages, but they owned everything. They owned my touring. They owned my publishing, my recordings, my songwriting. They owned my signature. They owned my likeness. They owned everything. Literally everything. And I was like, 'I'm good’, and it was chunk change. It was it was big ol' dollar figure and I couldn't do it.”

To conclude that subject, I asked Berry if he had any idea what would facilitate the kind of changes he sees needed.


“Dinosaurs die, man. On one on one hand, the Internet has been an evil force and making all the music available for nothing. But, then, on the other hand, it's leveled the playing field where this kid can record a song in his house and get it out there. And if people dig it, it can go crazy and he can become a rock star in 24 months. You live in royalty because of nothing else other than the availability of the Internet. But, on the other hand, the evil part of that is, is people are just giving music away. It used to be you put a record out and you go and tour to support that record and you'd take dates in Los Angeles because it wasn't the best money in the world. But you've got to play Los Angeles, visit the radio station, promote the heck out of it, and you pick up other dates along the way. You're out there.

“Now you tour so you can give away albums. You give away music to get people to come to your show. It's completely bass ackwards. And, you know, you give the music away for free and, hopefully, you'll sell tickets as a result.

“I was down at McBride's studio, Blackbird, yesterday, and Richie Furay's recording an album there. He's awesome and I'd never met him before. But we've chatted online a few times. And because of a friend of mine who saw him post something about me and 'Your Love Amazes Me', and how much that song meant to him, he ended up getting us in touch with each other. So, we had great online conversations and it was great to meet each other yesterday. But, man, everybody was there. I mean, there are so many artists from years gone past and rock and roll legends, you know, from his era. It was just awesome. They were getting ready to track a song and the solemnness of it. Oh, my gosh! It was so cool! Dan Dougmore was playing pedal steel and they had an upright bass, which sounded like a million bucks and they were in there playing. There's no click tracks. It's just playing music. Just a bunch of guys, sitting around a circle, playing music. It was awesome. It was just awesome.

Wrapping up our chat, I asked John Berry what was on his radar for the next year or two as well as how he wished to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be.

“Yeah, well, as far as upcoming projects, I have no idea. After the Christmas tour, we've got a cruise. We're going to go on with the Opry, the Opry cruise, the end of January, first of February and next year. I don't know. Maybe we'll record something and see what happens. I don't have any real projects in mind. Of course, you know, if Brian was here, he'd be going, 'Write a book! Write a book! Write a book!' So, we'll see about that. I know my wife is putting together a cookbook called Mixed Berries. She's doing it with her, our daughter and our two daughters-in-law. They're putting that together, working on that. That’ll come out this time next year. And, then, hopefully, we'll get a biography together, something like that.

“As far as the legacy, you know, I guess more than anything, I hope people know where my faith is. That's the most important " allowtransparency="no" width="120" height="240">thing that they know. I would just walk through this earth, you know, doing my time here. I was here. I had a reason for being here and my purpose is Christ.

“Yeah, it's an interesting question. I don't have a need for a monument when I'm gone. You know, there'll be people that will continue to enjoy my music for some period of time after, I guess. I guess that's the main thing: just people know that my faith was in Christ and that I was a kind person. I hope people will know that. I think that, whatever trials I faced in my life, that I'd had a God that was faithful to me. He was faithful; has always been and that’s important stuff to me. Trying to get out there and be remembered for ‘he sold so many records and sang for so many people and three presidents and all that kind of stuff’, it doesn't really matter.

I invite you to keep up with John Berry at his website, JohnBerry.com, and to catch his shows and order his work!

Peter Asher Talks About The Beatles A to Zed

Posted November 2019

Asher Peter with Buddy Holly guitar CroppedIt’s hard to believe that next year marks the fiftieth year since The Beatles broke up, each going their own creative ways. Since the break-up, there’s been a plethora of books, movies, compilation albums, and documentaries.

A gentleman who was there pretty much from the git-go is the legendary Peter Asher. For those of you who don’t know who Peter is, he is the “Peter” of the 60’s British duo, Peter and Gordon. Their first big hit as a song, A World Without Love, written by Paul McCartney, who happened to be engaged at the time to Peter’s sister, actress Jane Asher.

Peter later moved into artist management with people like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt among his clients. He has also been a record label executive and prolific record producer for a wide range of artists such as Cher, 10,000 Maniacs, Andrew Gold, and J.D. Southern.

Oh, and if you’re a SiriusXM subscriber, you may have caught Peter’s show, From Me to You, on the Beatles Channel (channel 18). When he’s not on the radio, he’s performing shows across the fruited plain with Jeremy Clyde (of Chad & Jeremy).

Amid all of this, Peter has written an interesting and intriguing book entitled, “The Beatles from A to Zed”. The book is a natural off shoot from his satellite radio program. In it, he shares his reflections into a unique alphabetical journey through some of the Beatles’ songs that happen to start with each letter. He also spotlights recurring themes within the songs, talks about the instruments used, and many other interesting factoids behind and about the songs.

I caught up with Peter by phone as he was working on some advance recordings of his radio show. Because of that, I asked Asher if had anything special coming up on the show.

“Well, no. I don't have guests on - or, I haven't, yet. So, it's just me. You know, I mean, me thinking of things to talk about and music to play. So, no, there's nothing special. I mean, I've recorded a few shows ahead of time, obviously, because now I'm in the middle of all this book promotion stuff, so. You know, I needed to have a few shows ahead.”

Changing the subject over to the book, I asked what the pre-release buzz was, so far, on the book.

“Apparently, I mean, people seem to be liking it. There's been a few advanced reviews that have been very positive, so I don't know. The book world is new to me. I've got some friends who are authors, but I've never had a book out before. So, it's a different process. And it's fascinating. But apparently, I mean, they tell me everything is going very positively and that the reaction, so far, is good. So, we shall wait and see.”

I commented that the book is a fun-filled encyclopedia of Beatles stuff.

“Yeah, I love that it rambles quite freely. But it's not, in no sense, an encyclopedia or meant to be any sort of a definitive S Ed Sullivan with PGEd Sullivan with Gordon and Peterreference book. I think the description of it is alphabetical mystery tour, which was the thought. It is quite apt in the sense that I'd sort of follow a similar idea with my radio show, follow the story wherever it led me. And use the alphabet as a very rough format. It doesn't use the alphabet for just song titles, but people and places and musical instruments and musical styles and all kinds of stuff. It's a very freeform encyclopedia.”

When I stated that my feeling was that he approached the book as an informed fan, he enthusiastically replied:

“Oh, definitely! No question! I am a fan! But yes, I wrote the book as a fan and not as any kind of an expert. I mean, I got introduced the other day as a Beatle expert, I said, 'No, I'm not an expert at all. I am a fan who also had the good fortune to be around to witness some of the events and hear some of the music, meet some of the people involved in the whole extraordinary Beatles story. But essentially that just means that I'm kind of a well-connected fan but just a fan, nonetheless.

I asked Peter what he hopes fans take away after reading The Beatles from A to Zed.

“Oh, that's interesting. I hope it makes people go listen to the music again, I suppose, in terms of what it would achieve, I think. I mean, I think one of the advantages of - Well, let's put it this way: When I set the radio into the book, of course, First, I was, like, "That will be easy, because we'll just transcribe everything I said on the radio. It'll be brilliant!". And, of course, it was far from brilliant. It was awful because the way you write and talk when you're just talking to somebody on the radio and following your analysis, it is very different than writing a book. So, I had to rewrite the whole thing.

“And the other thing I realized, of course, is that when you're doing a radio show, you play the music. You have to say a couple of sentences and then play it (the song). Whereas writing a book about the music, you have to actually get more specific and then more descriptive about what it is about the music that's so good. So, I did a lot of writing along those lines. But nonetheless, of course, people do have the opportunity nowadays to have the book in one hand and Spotify in the other, and play and read about the points I'm trying to make about the music and then listen to it and see if you agree.

“So, as far as what I hope people get out of it, I hope they’re entertained by it, that they’re amused by the passage of time. But I also hope maybe that they listen to the music with a new appreciation; that it (the music) is actually brilliant The Beatles were and are.

And how long did the book take Mr. Asher to write?

“I'm not certain I want to get it. It was a huge project. It was much bigger than I expected because I would with the transcripts of the radio shows and then go, ‘Oh, my God, it needs massive amounts of work!’ So, each sample was a great deal of work. So, I will not pretend that there weren't moments where I said, 'I don't know about this book stuff!', you know? It was a challenge. I like to try to write reasonably clearly and well. And I didn't want to co-write with anybody. I wasn't going to have somebody else do it because I pride myself on a certain amount of things and I'd rather do it myself. That makes it hard. And then you learn the value of the rewrite and all that stuff. So, with the help of an excellent editor at Henry Holt - my publishing company - I was eventually able to get it done. But, did I feel, at some points, I’d feel quite daunted by how long the bloody alphabet was. 'Will we ever get to Zed?' But eventually we did. But it was it was hard work.

A1 Studio Peter J G GMIn the Studio with John Lennon, George Harrison, Peter, and George Martin - Photo Courtesy of Apple Records“But now I'm pleased. I'm happy I did it. But I did have some moments where I just kind of went, 'Maybe this was just meant to be a radio show. And maybe this book idea is not a good one.' But then then I’d read as far I'd gotten and go, 'You know, maybe it's okay. Maybe people will be entertained, interested, or even conceivably enlightened or at least, you know, learn something about music that hadn't thought of on their own.”

I had to ask Peter if there was, from his unique vantage point, THE Beatles song of songs.

“To tell you the truth, I'm avoiding that question. I get asked so many times, 'What's your favorite Beatle song? What's your Beatles top five, top ten?' And, you know, it changes day to day. I honestly choose, if I may, politely, to say, no, I'm not going to say this is the best Beatles song ever. I know people like that kind of thing. They love lists and Top Tens and all that. But I'm kind of politely avoiding that because it's impossible. And it would literally change day to day. Or, I’d choose one now and then listen to the radio and hear a different one and then go, 'Well, you know that should be it.' You know, I don't know. I think it's important to remain flexible and I'm truly not sure.”

What is the biggest misconception of the Beatles?

“Wow. The biggest misconception. I don't know. I mean, I have to think about that at some length. I suppose. You know. I think because it ended in some arguments and anger, perhaps people give undue weight to that part of the story and forget how incredibly well they got on for so many years. They were an incredibly well blended band. It was the perfect storm both musically and personality wise and everything. They fit together so extraordinarily well when I did have an opportunity to watch them work together in the studio or on a project or whatever. I think the misconception is that there was, like all bands, that they did end with some arguing and some anger. But I think one forgets the extent to which they were genuinely cohesive, coherent and a creative whole for a long time. And that's how they created this body of work that is unequaled in the history of rock and roll.”

Peter has worked with lots of household names in some form or fashion over the years. Who would he like to work with that he hasn’t, yet?

“Actually, there's lots of people. I mean, there's so many great singers out there now in current pop music. The funny part is everyone thought the minute they put in technology that it enables you to do stuff on records that you couldn't necessarily do live or fix vocals in ways they couldn't previously be fixed. There was a feeling that it would lead to less great singers. But in fact, any of the current crop of singers like Ariana Grande.

“It's extraordinary how many good singers there are - and good songwriters! I'm a big Brandy Clark fan. I'd like to work with her one day. And Brandi Carlile, too, actually. People forget about her. But I think Brandi Clarke is spectacularly good. And, as I was saying, there's a lot of great singers. You know, Ed Sheeran obviously is not brand new anymore. But I mean, he's a singer/songwriter entirely up to the standards of the previous singer/songwriter era, in my view. I did actually get to do a track with Ed and became a huge fan as well as friends. So now there are lots of people. In fact, this guy, Lewis Capaldi, he's out now. He's spectacularly good. There's a lot of people, many of whom I would I would love to work with. I find new singers and new songwriters as exciting as I ever did.”

Does Asher stay in touch with his old clients?

“Oh, very much so. Both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, for example, are dear friends who I stay in contact with. Absolutely! Those are the people I worked with most extensively as a manager.”

I asked Peter if he were made music czar and given complete control of the music industry and was tasked with fixing the G PG in GermanyGordon and Peter in Germanymusic business, first of all, does he think the business broken and, if so, what would he do to fix it. His answer surprised me both by its forthrightness and its laissez-faire tone.

“I don't think there's any such thing. I mean, you can't fix a business other than by the free market. I don't mean to be an economic seminar. I realize it's an entirely hypothetical question but a political one. If this 'Music Business Czar' tried to impose order on the music business, you'd be doomed. You know? Every time that the industry has reacted to new technology or new music. I tried to do that. 'We can fix this. Let's pass some rules; some laws.' It's always been a complete disaster.

“So, ultimately, the free market will fix the music business. No, the music business is not broken. The record business was kind of broken there for a bit. The music business is flourishing. Music is more important to people's lives than it's ever been. The live concert business is flourishing. Concerts themselves is just so much plain ol’ better than they used to be because of the new sound, sonic technology. And, then, touring technology has changed so much that live shows are terrific now and sound good and look good and fun to go to and safe to go to and all kinds of stuff that didn't necessarily used to be.

“So, the music business is fine. The record business went through a period when it did look like it kind of sunk because everyone was finding ways to get music without paying anything at all for it or, at the most, a little. And now, finally, as you as you've seen, streaming is turning into a viable industry and people are making a living out of it.

“So, if I was Music Czar, the first thing I do is fire myself and say, 'No, we don't need a music czar. We need to allow the fans and the technology and the free markets to just shake itself out and find a way that people can make a living in music. And it's not the huge living that it used to be. You know, it probably isn't.

Q Peter with Buddy Holly guitar“I mean, my friend, Bob Lefsetz, has pointed out that the new rock stars are the tech guys, not the actual rock stars. If you want to make billions, have private jets and yachts and things, you're much better off inventing some app or a new social media format or something than you are writing songs and playing electric guitar. So, you know, it's changed. Being a rock star is no longer the ultimate rock star profession. It's harder to make a living doing that than it is, you know, being a techie guy. The nerds are getting younger and younger.

“That's a roundabout answer, I know. But I think the music business is fine. And if you don't make the same number of millions that you used to make in the old days, then so be it. But that's not the end of the world, either, because that means that people get into music because they love it, not because they want to be rich.”

As for what’s on Asher’s itinerary after he’s done promoting The Beatles A to Zed, he shared:

“Well, I've got some gigs lined up. I do this memoir show with a bunch video and audio and stuff. I've got some of those booked including a cruise I occasionally host - these rock and roll cruises. I'm doing one early next year, a 60s cruise that is really fun. I've done those several times before in the Caribbean. I have a great time doing that; a whole bunch of gigs. I'll be working on a couple of movie projects with Ann Timmer, who I work with a lot on film stuff. Gosh! What else? I'm trying to think there's a whole bunch of stuff I'm doing. But, to say 'immediately', we're trying to get this book off the ground. And obviously they're hoping to keep selling books through Christmas and all that. It makes an ideal Christmas present!”

Wrapping up our chat, I closed our conversation by asking how Peter hopes to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

“I really don't give much thought to that, to be honest. I don't particularly mind, you know. I won't be around by the very definition of your question. It's strange, I suppose. Maybe one is supposed to worry about one's legacy. But other than leaving my family well and my wife and daughter and all of that, I don't really have any post-death ambitions, nor do I have any belief that there is any such thing as post-death. So, as far as I'm concerned, you're dead and it's all over and that's it. As a staunch atheist, I find myself minding not very much about after I'm dead. It's odd, in a way. Why do people worry about that? Why do people worry about the size of the statues built about them, the books written about them or the stories told about them? I don't think I really do. I think whatever happens is okay with me.”

Angela Bowie - Backstage, Lipstick, & All

November 2019

Angela Bowie 001 CroppedBaby boomers everywhere remember when a strange artist hit American airwaves with some captivatingly strange tunes. Songs like “Space Oddity”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Suffragette City”, “Changes”, “Rebel Rebel”, “1984” and a whole slew of otherworldly songs.

Of course, I’m talking about David Bowie. And, if you were an awe-struck teen like I was then, you’d know that he and his then-wife, Angela, were taking the media world by a storm with their application of non-comformity in every area of their lives. Their lack of convention and their thumbing of their noses at societal norms captivated us all.

Married in early 1970, Angela and David’s marriage ended with the decade of the seventies. So then, Angie has been a prolific author, actress, and recording artist. One of the books she’s written is her 1993 book, Backstage Passes. I had recently re-read the tome and instinctively reached out to her for an interview.

It turned out to be quite serendipitous because she is in the midst of re-recording the audio version of the book as well as re-releasing the print version of it as well as other of her work.

Over the course of two phone conversations and notes back and forth, Angie and I chatted about what she’s been up to and what is about to be released. Reaching her at her home in the Southwestern U.S., she was immediately gracious and warmly welcoming.

We started out about comparing notes about living in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area, Atlanta traffic, and the arid southwest. Commenting about her time in the suburban-Atlanta burg of Acworth, she said:

“It was lovely. We had a great time there. I lived in Acworth very comfortably without going into Atlanta, except maybe once or twice a year because I really have no time for that (heavy traffic). No, I'm not interested in dying in a traffic jam or a traffic crash. I have to be convenient and Acworth was convenient. It was wonderful. Everything was there within - at the furthest - six or seven miles. More like three miles in perimeter. You know what I mean? So, I had a good time. We stayed at that house for two years. It was so comfortable and so convenient.”

I told her that I had experienced Atlanta gridlock for the Rolling Stones’ 2015 show there. She commented:

“So, while I like the Rolling Stones, I'm happy to watch them on TV and listen to them on radio or record. I have no desire to Angela David Bowie 001be part of the claustrophobia of going to a live concert. I wouldn't even consider it. I've never seen the Stones ever. Never. I have no interest whatsoever. I can see them perfectly well on television or in a movie. I really don't need to go and, you know, be hot and start to feel faint. F*** that.

Shifting our attention to her time in the Knoxville area and why I wanted to chat with her, Angela shared:

“I have to say to you, Randy, that your providence is enticing. We had the most wonderful time in Tennessee. Michael (Angela’s current husband) and I - we lived there for a year. And just outside of - we lived in a fabulous place, Tellico Village, which was 30 miles from the job site. The job site was in Alcoa.

“We found the people to be so charming and so wonderful. We had an absolutely magical year there. And, so, when I saw it on Facebook all the different things that you did. I wasn't surprised when it turned out that you had a blog. You know what I mean? You asked me to do it because - I don't often care sometimes for particular locations, but it has nothing to do with the people.”

During our second chat, Bowie added: “I don't have so much experience, you know, with the United States because I lived outside of the United States for so long. It's taken me 20 - 25 years living with Michael, to get a grip on all the various different parts and the relevance of those parts where we've lived as part of his job. And so, yeah, but when you mentioned that, I thought, yeah. Knoxville is such a lovely place. We really had a good time there.”

“You know, Acworth was perfect. It was so convenient. It was amazing. It really was. Tennessee was an absolute - it was gorgeous. The people were lovely. You know, we had a great time there. And, so, I just I took it as written that we would do this and that it would be fabulous. And I so appreciate you asking me. There it is: synchronicity, and it's very cool.”

Shifting the subject to her 1993 book, Backstage Passes, Angie said:

“I'm delighted to talk to you about Backstage Passes, because there's all kinds of great news about it. It's a been out of print for a while. And as of the last couple of weeks, we've done a deal with some guys in England who are going to do the e-book. Then, we'll be putting out the print version. I've already in the middle of doing the audio book. So, this will all tie-up and I would think that Backstage Passes in three or four different formats - E-book, audio book and print version of the book will be available by the end of October. I'm very excited about that!

Angela Bowie 002 by Federico Mastrianni Photo by Federico Mastrianni “It's been out of print since I did Celebrity Big Brother as they sold out. And that was a reissue. It's done extremely well. And that was a reissue. And they sold every book they had, and I thought, well, you know, maybe it would be a good idea to hold back and not let them pick up that again. Now I've got the rights returned to me and now we're anxious to make a bigger splash with it. 2016 was when they sold out of those and in January and now it'll be coming up to 2020 when we're able to put the book out again.

“Because of Celebrity Big Brother, because of the surname. It's not like they can't place me. They know who I am and they either like me or they don't. If they don't like me, they're not going to read the article anyway.

“Every year was filled with all the things that I did in those first eight, nine years, and we were able to produce and delivered eleven albums in those eight years. Eleven!

“It was breathtaking how hard everybody worked. You know, we had a costume factory at Haddon Hall with Freddie Burretti and the people that he got into work with him.

“There was a rehearsal room downstairs. They would rehearse. They would go off to the west end and go into the studio. Then they would go out on tour. It was extraordinarily busy and interesting.”

With Backstage Passes having been out 26 years now - and the passing of David Bowie almost four years ago - I asked if there have been any repercussions or change of view towards her in recent years.

“Oh, I don't really pay much attention to it. I haven't really. I've been too busy writing other books. I'm not the slightest bit interested, but it is a useful revenue stream for one's retirement. So, you take it seriously. I had to start thinking about the fact that it is wanted by an audience and when an audience want something then - if you're a marketer, and a promoter, and a writer like I am, then you have to pay attention, you know what I mean?

“You know, I recently had an offer from someone in England for the e-book of it. That enables us to put out the print version. I'm also doing the audio version, so. There it is, in three formats, Backstage Passes will be alive and well by the end of November. So, this is a good thing.

I asked Angie if there was anything, she wished she had done differently in the book.

“No. That's how I am.”

Anyone who has ever experienced a divorce knows that there is more than a marriage that is divided. There are outside relationships that are affected, as well. During our second call, I asked Ms. Bowie if she had lost any friends as a result of her divorce from David.

“To be honest with you, Randy, I haven't even thought about it. The people that David and I were friendly with were basically in England or New York or Los Angeles. And I don't really have much interest in those kinds of large cities. I didn't really even notice it, to be honest.

“I knew that when we got divorced, I was quite young. I was, I think, 29 or 30. And I really didn't expect much more because I Angela Bowie 002 by Sergio KardenasPhoto by Sergio Kardenasknew that people would get a line out to prove their solidarity today. That happened a lot. People did that a lot. I really didn't care. You know, I expected it. So, I guess I buttoned it up and refused to even think about it.

“It is another system of the protocol of divorce. If they don't line up with the other partner, they don't feel like they joined in the divorce proceeding. I just I wasn't going to get involved because I thought to myself, 'Would you really care about losing a friend who is so fair weather that they're going to side with David . . . who wants friends like that?’ I think it's the nature of human beings. I think that if they got the opportunity of being judgmental, then, oh, good! Let's get judgmental! Let's rave on about whose fault it must've been!' - whether they know or not, they just listen to a bunch of propaganda and go for it.”

In conclusion, Angela said, “Like I said, I didn't pay too much attention to it because I thought - I suspected that it would occur, and I really thought that's not worth wasting time on. It had to be a normal repercussion of divorce.”

In Backstage Passes, Bowie shared an incredible story about a paranormal experience at a home she and David were renting. You’ll have to read the book for the details of it. I asked her if she experienced anything like that since.

“No, I think I've experienced some stuff like that before that. As a young schoolgirl in Switzerland, from 9 to 16, there were some extraordinary events that occurred. No, no, I never experienced anything since then, but I had experienced a few things like that before.”

She continued, “I try not to be too concerned if I can't fathom stuff. My mother was sort of instrumental in that. She would say, ‘Well, reserve judgement.’ I would keep saying that. I'd think, 'OK, I'll reserve judgment.' And she was very instinctive and intuitive about people and I was also.

“So sometimes - she just - there was certain people she would not deal with. She would not go to functions where they were going to attend or anything like that. And she said that, you know, it's better to stay away. That was why - even though it was bizarre and ‘out there’, I thought, ‘Well, what are you doing within yourself that you are bringing this kind of strangeness into our lives?’ And I really just kind of let it go at that.”

Then, with a bit of humor, she concluded: “You know, I kept thinking to myself, 'Well, this is a good omen for me to get the f*** out.' You know, I really had no interest in standing around and watching all that kind of weirdness. I was like, 'Oooo! F*** this! I'm out of here.'”

We then shifted our conversation to Angela’s other, more current pursuits.

Angela Bowie 004“Well, I decided that I was going to do audio versions of some of the books that I have written recently. So, Lipstick Legends has become an audio book. We're doing another audio version of Backstage Passes. There was one done years ago at the same time in the early 90s when Backstage Passes came out. But we're doing an audio - another one - because the company that had the rights to doing the Backstage Passes audio book has gone out of business and so there are no further copies available. So, we decided that we would go ahead and rerecord that.

“I'm also doing an audio book of Pop Sex because it's one of my most favorite books that I've written. And it's a really romping tale through history of just how church and state have dominated the sexual lives of their citizens and how that became a power tool and a power lever in and of itself.

“In the meantime, we have some new stuff coming out. I'm very excited, Michael and I've been thrilled to be involved in this. Rick Hunt worked with us on Catastrophe. And my book of lyrics and poetry, Fancy Footwork. And we had always said that we wanted to do a book of his art.

“Gaucho Visions is the first of four or five projected books of his art. And it's turned out magnificently. He's very, very happy. So, on the 5th of October, we will be launching Gaucho Visions. And, then, before Christmas - it's Gaucho Visions Part One and Gaucho Visions Part Two will come out, hopefully, before Christmas. There's no hopefully about it. It will come out before Christmas. And, then, I've been working on so many other things. I mean, literally there is a list that's about two pages long and so I'm working on all of that as well.

As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, she added:

“I've got Take Out Your Troubles, which is a song that Chico (Rey) and I recorded about five years ago. I was in Los Angeles about a month ago and I went to see my pal, Larry Treadwell, and I said to him that we were going to take Take Out Your Troubles and do a remake, a remix. Well, a remix, a final mix which we had never actually done and mastered the tune because I wanted to have a track contribute to the GoFundMe for Chico Rey's medical expenses.

“Larry unbelievably managed to pull it out in 10 days, and he took care of it all. When I got to L.A., he had the track for me, Angela Bowie 005and it sounds incredible. So, we'll also have some new music. And I've got a new album which is recorded already, but I'm going to do the same thing with that - is to do the final mixes and the mastering. And that will come out in 2020. It is called, Sterling Moon Lynx, which is a name that was bestowed upon me by Rick and Carolyn Hunt - an Indian name, an Avanaki name. I decided that that was it was so impressive that I would just use it as the title for the album.”

As I often do when I’ve chatted with an icon from my youth, I reflect on their life, their contributions, and the experience I’ve had during my conversation with them. It was no different after my visits with Angela Bowie. We often think that they live on a different plain that us mere mortals. Yet, they, too, are mere mortals who know that life is short and that, like us, are responsible for making the most of it. Angie is certainly still doing that.

I encourage you to keep up with Angela and her latest work by visiting AngelaBowie.net. You can order her books by ordering through her website or by clicking on the ads on this page.

 

Deana Martin Says, "Baby It's Cold Outside!"

Posted November 2019

DeanaMartinCroppedBaby boomers certainly remember the great days when quality TV programming was available. Some of my earliest childhood memories was watching the Dean Martin Show and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on TV with my parents. They were absolutely hysterical and entertaining.

For as far back as I can remember, one of the songs I heard countless times every Christmas season was Dean Martin’s 1959 classic, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. I never gave it much thought past the fact that it was a great Christmas classic.

Times have changed and ‘tis the season of Christmas decorations, lists, sales, and songs. Last year, the Dean Martin classic (written by Frank Loesser in 1944) became the focus of controversy because of what is known as the “Me, Too Movement”.

According to Wikipedia, Frank wrote the song to be sung with his wife as a signal to holiday dinner guests that it was time to go home. It was first recorded by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams for the movie, Neptune’s Daughter. Afterwards, it was recorded Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, and Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McCrae before Dean Martin recorded his now-famous version.

In more recent years, Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw, Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and Ronnie Dunn, and Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have recorded covers of the song.

Then, suddenly, the song was felt to be radioactive by many due to a perception by some that the lyrics portrayed a seduction. The controversy gained moment with the Me-Too Movement and the news that a Canadian radio station banned it from airplay for a period of time.

Last year, Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana, voiced her perplexity at the sudden “concern” about the lyrics of the song. DEAN DEANA Christmas came and went, and all thought the storm over the song had permanently blown over.

Then it was recently announced that John Legend and Kelly Clarkson have re-recorded the Christmas classic in with politically correct/Me Too sensitive lyrics. Ms. Martin has, again, spoken up regarding her dismay about the past and new controversies over her dad’s hit.

Deana called me from her Beverly Hills home to discuss the hullaballoo as well as projects she’s working on.

Making small talk, we discussed our dad’s. We quickly learned that our dad’s share the same birthday. So, yeah, both of our dads are great, and Deana even wished my dad a happy belated birthday. The smile now permanently on my dad’s face is genuine and permanent.

But I digress.

We shifted the focus of our chat from our dads to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Deana’s thoughts about it.

“Well, the whole thing is so funny because I thought we were over all of this last when it was banned from, I think, a Cleveland radio station. I saw that on my iPhone or something. So, I tweeted, 'I think this is insane. You know, what do you think? This is crazy.' And all of a sudden, it went viral. I mean, it was just, you know? Nuts. People were calling me to do TV shows and radio shows all over. I just I could not understand. It was just so bizarre to me that they're going to pull that song.

“And after I tweeted it and started doing all those radio shows, the song was put back onto all the radio shows and it went to number one. I had two hundred thousand texts and tweets and emails - positive ones. Nothing negative, which is really good. You know, it's like, ‘You go, girl!’

Deana Martin 2“That was last year. And then, all of a sudden, I find out that John Legend has re-written the words, he changed the lyrics. I adore him. I think he's a fantastic entertainer and musician. And, Kelly Clarkson, she's spectacular. What a voice and what a personality she has! But I thought, you know, it's gone way too far with the P.C. police,

“I'm all for the Me-Too Movement. But I think that we've all gone insane. And when I think why on earth would he want to change the lyrics to a classic from 1944 – a Frank Loesser song? It won the Academy Award. That's what I'm telling you. But I think what he did with changing the lyrics, he made it sexual when he said, ‘It's your body, it's your choice’. I'm thinking, ‘Wait a minute.’

“To me it was just preposterous that he would even do that. And I understand that it was written 60 years ago and there's different sensibilities now. But it still irks me that he's changed the lyrics for just a fantastic, evergreen, classic holiday song. But I do understand what he wants and what he's trying to do. And he's a he's a good guy. But, you know, when I think, ‘Why is he changing the lyrics to that fabulous song?’ It was perfect the way it is. He's a good writer. He could write his own song. He could do some Christmas song. So, that's how I feel.

“People have asked me about what would my dad think. My dad was so cool and laid back. He wouldn't have thought Deana Martinanything about this. He was, ‘Okay, whatever you want to do is fine.’ He was over all of that. He wouldn't have said anything about it.

“I was asked a question today that I hadn't even talked to my grandsons yet to see what they what they thought, you know? They're 21 and 16. And so, it would be interesting because, last year we all talked about that. But now this is a whole new spin on an old, old story. I would like to hear what they have to say.

“I have not heard anything negative on my side, which is great, because it's a timeless classic. My dad did it and so many people have sung this song. I'm going to be singing it tomorrow night. I'm doing a big event at the Italian Museum in New Orleans tomorrow and I'll be singing, ‘Baby, It's Cold Outside. Then, I'll be singing it in Las Vegas. I have my holiday show December 8th, my Christmas show. So, I’ll continue to do it. Now, whenever I sing the song, I get a standing ovation and people are just cheering everywhere because they want to hear the original one just the way it was written by Frank Loesser.”

Talking about her shows teed up the perfect segue question: What’s on her radar for the next year or so?

“Well, we have so much on the radar. In fact, I believe we're going to be doing a Broadway play called, ‘Sunny Side of the Street’. It's about Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. They wrote all those fantastic songs like 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby’ Hundreds of songs. I'll be Dorothy Fields and that'll be on Broadway. It's next year. I also I travel all over doing Deana Martin's Celebrity Roasts. The last roast we did was with Joe Mantegna. A lot of his crew and cast from Criminal Minds came on. I had Joe Piscopo and Tommy Dreesen. We roasted him and it was spectacular. It's something that we are doing in different venues. It can be for corporate dates. It doesn't have to be a movie star. It could be a football player or whatever. It could be the CEO of some company and you know that there are some people who want to roast him. I'll bring my comedians. It's a fantastic event. It's spectacular for me to be able to do that and keep that alive. Carrying on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast is something that's fabulous - with the Deana Martin Celebrity Roast.

“I have about five songs that we are putting on the new album. One that L. Russell Brown just wrote for me called, “Mr. Moon”. L. Russell Brown wrote, ‘Tie Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’, and ‘Knock Three Times on the Ceiling’. I mean, he's a fantastic writer, right? He came to some of my shows and I’ve recorded some of his songs. He's just written this new one, ‘Mr. Moon’, which is fantastic.

“We're just so busy traveling, traveling around, doing shows. And as I say, I'm doing this tomorrow night and, then, I'll be in Las Vegas on December 8th for two shows. There's so many I can't even think it's on my web site if you want to go on. I don't post the corporate dates. But on my other shows. We're going on tour in Australia, February - I think the first week in February. I'll be doing eight to 10 shows there. I did it last year. I tell you, the audience in Australia is hysterical. They're fantastic. And, in fact, later today, I'm going to be doing The Australian Today Show. And so, I'll be talking to them, which is fantastic. So, it's just a lot of a lot of work. And I enjoy what I do. It's the packing and unpacking that's kind of tough.”

Will the Deana Martin’s Celebrity Roasts be available on DVD for fans to buy?

“We will be (offering them). We will be doing that. It was difficult for the Joe Mantegna roast because you have so many actors and people who work on the show. We have to get a lot of releases and everything. So, this was this was the second one that we had done. It was just spectacular. People who could not be there sent in videos that were hysterical and people. I'm trying to think of his name, but he sent one in. He did a great video, but he said the name wrong. He thought it was for Joe Montana and started talking about football. It was really good. He planned it all that way. I got a letter from Andy Garcia that I read, and it was hysterical.

“So, it's something that we will be doing a lot more of and people are dying to dying to do it. It's just fun to be able to bring that back. And, you know, when I think of Foster Brooks. Good heavens! Where he played 'Are you a pilot?' when he was in the bar. I mean, just all of the people who were on his show and they're friends. I had Rich Little who came on and he roasted Joe. And, as I said, Tommy Driessen and all the people who are just spectacular!”

You can keep up with Deana year ‘round at her website, DeanaMartin.com. Do catch one of her shows if you get a chance. And, if you do, tell her that Boomerocity sent you.

Bob Gruen Talks On Green Day

Posted November 2019

BobGruen CropbyLindaRowePhoto by Linda RoweAs teens, baby boomers very likely have seen the work of legendary rock photographer, Bob Gruen. Boomerocity readers know that we’ve interviewed him twice before. In fact, we’re very proud to say that Yoko Ono posted our first interview with Bob in its entirety on her website (archived here). We’re equally proud of our second interview with Bob (here), though it didn’t make it to ImaginePeace.com.

If you’ve read our past two chats with Gruen, you know that he doesn’t sit still. Always capturing our culture in images that interests us, he has done so, again, with his latest book of photos entitled, “Green Day – Photographs by Bob Gruen”.

Gruen has been a friend of the guys in Green Day for over twenty-five years. During that time, he has shot and amassed quite a treasure trove of images. Thus, the book. I called Bob up at his New York City gallery to talk about the book. But, first, I asked how the book we previously visited about, See Hear Yoko, did, and how Yoko is doing these days.

“Well, people who got it loved it. It was really well made, and it got a lot of great response. It wasn't a huge seller, but I wasn't expecting it to be, But it was very well received, which was what we wanted.”

And how is Yoko doing?

“She's pretty good. She's still busy. She has to get out as much as she used to. She's eighty-six now. She developed a problem with her knees by walking around so she doesn't get out as much, but she's still involved with millions - or dozens of projects, anyway.”

Gruen’s reputation is that he has always liked fast, loud punk bands – especially his friends, The Class. So, it is no surprise that he became a Green Day fan early on. That said, I wanted to hear directly from Bob what drew him personally to Green Day and what is it about them that allows them to connect with so many people around the world.

“Well, I think for me, rock and roll is about freedom. Rock n roll is the freedom to express your feelings very loudly in public. I think that's what The Clash certainly were doing, and I think that's what Green Day's doing. They're also big fans of The Clash. I think they're inspired a lot by them, as were so many bands.

“What I like about Green Day is they're like The Clash. Most of the bands that I personally like, they're saying something, meaning that they're saying something important. And they're not just talking about being lonely or they can't get a girlfriend, or they broke up with their girlfriend. Those are true sentiments, but they're not what I call social politics.

“Green Day is talking to social politics with songs like Minority and just so many of their songs, they're reaching typically alienated, lonely people who need, who want something to believe in. And not to believe in the band, but to believe in themselves. I think that the band inspires people to believe in themselves. I think that's the overall take away from them and the fact that they're just an awful lot of fun.

“They make great records. But they're also a really fantastic live band. They hit the stage running and they stay running for two and a half to three hours. And they just keep the audience's attention.”

Why this book and why now?

“Well, it's interesting, my relationship with Green Day, because I never worked for them and I was never even on assignment C 165 GreenDay 2009 Gruen72Photo by Bob Gruenfor a magazine for them. I met them as friends when I went with my friend, Jesse Malin's band, Degeneration, opened for Green Day. We had seen Green Day once or twice in New York, then - I saw them first in 94 at a party at Don Hill's club. Then, a little later, they had a party at Don Hill's club when their, I think, Dookie record came out. Then, Jesse was going to Europe to open for them and he suggested we come along. I had had a few drinks and I thought it was a good idea. Ha! Ha!

“Next thing I knew, me and my wife were in England and we saw Degen and Green Day three times in England. Then we went to Paris and saw the show there. After a week or so, I was a fan. I thought they were fantastic. I think that's when we first got to know each other. They're fun guys to hang out with. It turned out we had a similar cynical kind of sense of humor. And they were thrilled. They grew up looking at my pictures and they were thrilled that I was interested in taking pictures of them.

“I found them great practice because I don't work a lot nowadays. One of the reasons is it's so difficult to get any kind of access with a band and, when you do, you rarely get to own the photos and get to license them or make any money off them. But, with Green Day, I had complete access and they never asked me for any photos. It almost was a little disappointing. ‘Why don't you want to use my photos?’ Ha! Ha! But I also rarely even showed them to them. It wasn't that kind of relationship. They just like having me around, taking pictures, you know. Sometimes it was one picture in particular, the picture that's on the book cover that I knew that they were in the same building where I took the picture. I took a picture like that of The Clash on top of the roof where you can see the whole skyline of New York. It's in the RCA building where there’s a lot of TV studios and Green Day was there. I mentioned to them that it's the same building I took the picture of The Clash. ‘You could come up on the roof and we take another picture of them like that.

“They immediately wanted to do it, but it was a little difficult because they were in the building for Saturday Night Live, which is a live show. They (SNL) get very paranoid. They start rehearsing on Tuesday and by Saturday afternoon, you have to show up and they don't let anybody out of the studio all day because they don't want to be missing when they go live. It took a lot just to get permission to stay in the building and just go up on the roof for 20 minutes or so. But they did it. And that's all I did that day. And then I made up some prints.

“Later, Tre' was saying to me that they hired another guy who traveled with them for like two months. He was a fashion photographer who were taking a load of pictures with the idea of making a book that he never made because he took too many pictures and couldn't edit it down or something. I don't know. Maybe he took too many and didn't get any good ones.

GreenDay309 2009 0044 Gruen72“But Tre' said that I just show up. I'm there for 20 minutes and I get the money shot and I don't bother them. That's how I worked with them the whole time. Like, as they say, they never hired me and never had an assignment. I just went because it was fun. And after 25 years, it seemed like, ‘What am I going to do with all of these pictures? There's so many great pictures.’ So, we decided to make a book.

“Fortunately, the company that I work with, Abrams Image, liked the idea. And so, we made a really nice book. The art director, Shawn Dahl came up with some great ideas to make the book more interesting instead of just square photos. (He said), ‘We should change the shapes on all the different pages.’ Billy actually came up with the idea of having Avi Spivak do little drawings all over the book and that made it very ‘Green Day’. It makes it very kid like. And then Billy Joe sent it forward that he wrote, which is three pages handwritten on like school paper, like, lined the paper up. And it just looks so Green Day. We printed it as he wrote it. We didn't type it up. We just photographed the pages and put them in. It's really a fun book. Tre' and Mike also added comments - and Billy - throughout the book. It's really fun. I mean, any fans would surely like it. We tried to make and simple. Nothing formal, that's for sure.

As for what the band – and the band – thinks about the book, Bob said:

“The band likes it very much. I mean, the reaction I got back from them, they thought it was great. They're really happy that I GreenDay904 2004 0081 Gruen72Photo by Bob Gruenmade it. And as far as sales, within a month, it went into second printing already. So, that's a good reaction.

Gruen has photographed some of the biggest names in rock and roll. So, I was just curious as for photographing Green Day, was that any different than any of the other bands or acts that he has photographed over the years.

“Well, that wasn't different in the sense of bands like The Clash or other bands that I had total access to, where I was just hanging out with the band and took pictures when they look good. We didn't really ever have a session. I think once, when they were in New York and they were staying on Mercer Street, and they had scheduled to go somewhere. Before they left, we planned to do a half an hour out on the street. I think that was the most scheduled we ever did was just to walk up and down Mercer Street for 20 minutes before they left. But other than that, it was just the idea that I had access to them; that they always look good. As far as photographing them, they move fast, so that made me work, which is what I was looking to do. I mean, I was trying to get some photo exercise there. So, it worked out pretty well on that level. Ha! Ha!

Just as I did during our “See Hear Yoko” interview, I asked what he thinks is the biggest misperception about Green Day or the band members individually.

“I don't know because I don't get to see so much criticism about them. For Yoko, there is often a lot of criticism that people come up with. But with Green Day, I don't know. I mean, one thing that I thought was kind of funny is that people attacked them for having punk roots and then ending up playing stadiums. I remember one night, Billy Joe was kind of upset that somebody in a book called them sellouts because they played such big places. Billy Joe said, 'Is it my fault that we're really good? I mean, should we play in a club for 60 people when 60 thousand wanna come? Do we have to keep fifty-nine thousand people out in the street? Why shouldn't we let them in if they want to come in?'

“So, I think, you know, for me, they've really kept their punk roots. I mean certainly their attitude, their humor. They use common language, the same language that their fans use. But sometimes, like Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart sells about two thirds of the records that are sold in the United States. More than half of the records are bought at Wal-Mart stores, as far as music. But they have strict rules and they don't - so many bands make a G rated album. And there's like an explicit lyrics and a G rated lyrics (version of an album). The G Rated lyrics, they can sell in Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart doesn't like explicit language.

BobGruen MoMA 12 2009 DSC 1523 LindaRowe72wmPhoto by Linda Rowe“And Billy Joe, when he was asked about why they wouldn't change their album, make a second version for Wal-Mart, he said, 'Well, Wal-Mart thinks that some of our lyrics are dangerous. Why don't they just put him on the other side of the store and sell them with the guns and knives and other dangerous things they carry?' That's the kind of, you know, common sense humor that I like. Yeah. And that's why I like Green Day.”

With the Green Day book in stores and online now, I asked Bob what is on his radar for the next year or so.

“Well, right now, I'm working on a biography. I'm hoping to finish that in the next couple months and have that out next year. I've been organizing my archive. I want to have some more traveling exhibits going around because I'm just a lot of pictures here. I'd rather get them on walls out there in the world so people can see them. So, I’m working on exhibit projects and similar projects.”

Until Bob Gruen comes to your next of the woods, you can order his Green Day book by clicking on the widget on this page as well as order some of his other books by clicking on the select items, below. You can also keep track of Bob’s latest activities and offerings by visiting BobGruen.com.