Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steve, Satch and Jason

The benefit concert was held at a club called Slims in downtown San Francisco, not a big place and I think they had to turn a few people away in the end as the line stretched around the block.
There were about 650 people in the room, downstairs were dressing rooms for all the different musicians who were there to lend their support to Jason.

I was not sure what to expect, Steve and I are not metal guitar/shredder aficionados so all I knew was that there would be loud music and maybe lots of leather!
What I found were a whole bunch of musicians who showed such affection for their friend, long hair abounded and so did the love.  They were all so good at what they do, fast playing, dexterity and excitement.

Most of the night was taken up with full bands apart from Marty Friedman who had flown in from Japan for the gig, so he used a backing track but played so well and with such intensity and feeling that you forgot there was not a band up there with him. A gentle and generous man with a mane of black curly hair who had travelled such a huge distance to support his old recording mate Jason.

When we were introduced I said "Hello, can I have your hair" he laughed and said "Hello, can I have your accent".

I knew Jason wanted Steve to play but we were not sure how or when that might happen. Steve would need a band behind him and he had told Dave Lopez the organizer that the best way to go was to do a blues, but who with?

The night started around 9pm, the line up of music just got better and better, I was looking forward to the last couple of guys, Richie Kotzen and the great Joe Satriani. Steve and I normally go to bed at 9pm, so you can imagine us sitting in a crowd for three hours past bed time. Enjoying the night but gradually falling asleep in the dark.

I was beginning to think Steve would not get to play, if that was so I was sorry for Jason more than anything, Steve was his normal pragmatic self, saying he was just happy to be there and to have spent time with his old buddy. 
He had sat clutching one of Jason's guitars in a case all night but maybe it was doomed to stay in there. 

Around midnight, Terry, one of Jason’s loyal and lovely friends who had been so helpful to us on our visit appeared at my side. He shouted in my ear " Joe Satriani has asked Steve to play a blues with him, do you think Steve will be up for that?" My prayers had been answered; Steve might get to play after all! I turned to Steve "Do you know Satriani?" "No" says Steve, "Well he has asked you to join him onstage for a number". 

As it turned out Joe was sat quietly in the dark watching from the side, just a few feet from us, an unassuming, small man who hid his huge onstage persona perfectly in the crowd.
Terry guided Steve over to speak to Joe and it was decided they would do a Jeff Beck song called 'Going Down', Steve had played it before, thirty years ago!!

It was my job then to find out how Steve would get onstage and plug in, a job normally sorted out by tour crew given his blindness.
I found Joe on the stairs leading down to the dressing rooms and introduced myself. I explained that Steve was nearly blind, he had no idea, few people do but he was grateful to know the situation.

Terry helped me locate the stage manager and then in turn Joe's guitar tech who was amazing and took control of the situation. 
We found ourselves onstage at the back where we waited for the three songs before Steve went on to join Joe and his extraordinary bass player and drummer.

It was like a wall of sound! Steve says he felt a musical kick in the ass and realized he had to just hold on tight till the train stopped. What a tight band! Joe was so generous and respectful, he beamed from ear to ear as he and Steve traded licks.

Steve does not realize just how many people including Joe Satriani have followed his career and admire his work. 

They brought the house down, the crowd went mad and Steve looked so happy to be there.
It was a truly amazing experience, everything; San Francisco, Haight Ashbury, Jason and his wonderful family and friends and finally a night of music not to be forgotten for a man not to be forgotten.

The film crew captured the whole thing so I will look forward to that!

Here is my view of the stage:

Middle pic by Kris Claerhout

The Jason Becker film interview

The young team from London who have been filming the new documentary about Jason were without a doubt the coolest group of young people I have ever met. All in their late 20's or early 30's they have taken on this massive responsibility with great thought.
They work so well together, keeping humour there but the business of the movie is at the forefront.

I am hopeless with names but I think there was Jesse, Freny, Carl and Dario . They were all very respectful with Steve and made him feel relaxed, an essential part of doing interviews for film.

Jesse asked some good questions but kept them sparce and loose, allowing Steve to get into his flow and recall the days he and Jason spent in Vancuver recording. Two young rock guitarists out on the town, gathering cute girls around them whenever they could and having a ball between sessions for the album. 

Steve as ever was eloquent and articulate, as he described the times when he would be walking along kidding with Jason only to look around to find Jason was not there. Then find him collapsed on the sidewalk as his legs started to deteriorate at an astonishgly quick rate.
I was moved to tears as he described how his young talented friend was facing such a devastating illness.

The trailer for this movie is an indication of how good this production is going to be and I applaud the film team for getting out Jason's story.

San Francisco

This is a big year of 'firsts' for me! And going to San Francisco was another one.

The home of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hippy art college roots came with lashings of hippie stuff: No shoes all summer, some dubious methods of relaxation and not forgetting my (off) white raggedy sheepskin coat.

We were there for a very important purpose but Jason's mom and dad, Pat and Gary were determined to get us out to do a bit of sightseeing despite their being run off their feet with all the arrangements on top of normal daily duties.

They took us for a drive to the GG Bridge and through the park near it, the bridge is awesome! Then we drove slowly through Haight Ashbury, this is where the hippie movement started and I could feel my youthful carefree days flooding back to me here in the home of freedom of thought. 
The houses are so beautifully painted, I found a cool pic to show you.
Steve and I decided we would love to live there but of course that would involve risking the earth quakes so I will reserve judgment on that move for now. 

It was pretty cloudy that day so my pic of the Golden Gate Bridge has added vibe (:

Not Dead Yet!

Jason Becker ~ 'Not Dead Yet' ALS Benefit

Of all the events in our calendar this was one we did not want to miss!
Steve has known Jason Becker for 22 years, they first met when they were both recording on a David Lee Roth album in 1989.

Jason was a 20 year old guitarist who had already started to light up the world with his astonishing playing, he was destined to become an all time great. But one day during the recording of the album Steve noticed that Jason was walking with a limp, he asked him about it and suggested he get it checked by a doctor.

That was the start of many visits to doctors for Jason, eventualy he was diagnosed with
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. (ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease)

Despite all the negative odds, Jason is still with us and still composing music.
He communicates with his eyes via a method developed by his dad Gary.
Jason is funny, smart, spiritual and loving. In fact all the things that we all love about Steve are right there in Jason and that is why they are like brothers.

We flew to San Francisco where Jason and his family live and from the moment we were picked up to the moment we were dropped off to the airport to fly home again we were enveloped in the blanket of love that surrounds Jason Becker.
His condition demands constant care, but there is a network of carer's that include his mom and dad who take on this work without complaint. The network extends to the wider family and friends and Jason has a lot of them!

We were there to do two things other than hang with everybody, Steve wanted to add his part to the new documentary being filmed by a group of young talented film makers from the UK and he wanted to be at the music event that had been organised.

More about those things on the next blog:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hall of Fame the finale

Due to our standard cable package being so ****! I am not able to watch the show go out tonight so here is the last blog on the Hall of Fame night:
The finale was spectacular! Alice, Dennis, Michael and Neal,  Darlene Love, Dr John, the choir, everybody singing and having fun; Bette Midler is awesome, where does that voice come from?
I think Glen Buxton was looking down and smiling for his friends, I know they were thinking of him.

We were sitting down and catching our breath when I hear our names being called. The co ordinator Vanessa is galloping along the balcony, her walky talky clonking up and down and hitting her in the hip; “Steve! Karen! Bette wants to see you; she won’t leave till you get there”.

We follow her back down the stairs, although she actually left us behind; through the kitchen and out the other side into the VIP area and there waiting in a hallway with her husband is Bette Midler.
She flung herself at Steve, they have not seen each other since the movie ‘The Rose’ in the 80’s but as ever the man had made an impact, his humor, his honesty and of course his talent is infectious and those lucky enough to be around him when he is relaxed and comfortable never forget.

Vanessa had the insight to take out her camera; Bette grabbed me saying “get in the picture”. So we have a pic to come of the three of us. After she had gone people were stopping us saying “Did Bette find you?” She had been shouting “Where is Steve Hunter!!”  The man’s kudos took a bit of a leap that night.
He was made up, he loves Bette Midler like a sister and I think that made his year!

What a time we had.


Hall of Fame (part three)

We were all gathered in the kitchen waiting for the band to go on; Bette Midler had just gone past like a dose of salts! She was very small, shorter than me!
Alice’s stage manager took over from me, guiding Steve into the ballroom and up the stairs to the stage along with Neal; I went and found a spot to watch from. There was one song I was particularly concerned about; the man had an intro that involved a seven fret jump.

The atmosphere was amazing, this was a very overdue accolade in many people’s minds and tonight was their night to shine, which they did. Rob Zombie joined them and gave a very funny introduction what a cool guy he is and he has a wife too stunning for words.

At this point, time stood still or did it just whizz by? Whichever it was, before I knew it, the band were heading for the podium and Steve was on his way back off the stage. He had done the troublesome intro with no problem and that is all I can remember of the three songs.

We got back upstairs to our table by which time Alice had a yellow snake around his neck which seemed to be trying to slither on to Neal, it may have decided to take a short tour of entire Alice Cooper Group.

The speeches done by the band, we could sit back and watch…… more speeches.

Ok, it is a well known fact by any of my friends that I am hopeless at remembering the order of things so for anybody reading this that was at the show I apologize, my brain will be spitting out things in the order that they get remembered.

Elton John was part of my youth, I loved all his earlier albums but never took to him as a personality but I now offer up great respect. He was so eloquent and I was riveted by his introduction of the video of Leon Russell, ahead of giving him his award.  He described how Leon had been forgotten despite writing so many wonderful songs, that he had decided to record an album with him and set forth on a mission to see him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He called for Leon to come on stage and a portly man appeared long white hair and dark glasses. I had goose bumps as he made his way up the few steps to the podium; he had a cane and was frail.
When he got to the top he paused, took a breath then said just a couple of sentences, but I was already in tears before he finished. He said something along the lines of “I was on the side of the road and Elton John picked me up” it was unbearably touching, and then he was gone.

I remember Darlene Love; she was shining so brightly you could see a glow around her and when she sang it was perfect, soulful and full of joy.

At some stage early on I couldn’t believe my eyes when Judy Collins got up to sing ‘Both Sides Now’ I was awestruck! Judy Collins!!!! She was small, with lots of long grey hair and her voice filled the room, crystal clear and pure like an angel.

Tom Waits was introduced by Neil Young who is one of my all time hero’s. Tom Waites could have been a successful standup comic if it were not for his amazing songwriting talent. I was crying again by the end of his speech but it was from laughing this time.

There were performances by combinations of musicians that would rarely be seen, John Mayer, Elton,  Tom Waites and Leon Russell, Neil Young, Dr John and even Bruce Springsteen; it was so musical and so honest. None of that overdone rubbish like on the Grammy’s this was real music!
Tom Waites did a set on his own, with a small group around him, barely feet apart from each other on the big stage. It was incredible; he made the ballroom so small and intimate with his performance, we could have all been at the local pub.

Paul Simon introduced Neil Diamond; he was dry and funny and obviously has great affection for Neil. When Neil came striding up the steps to the podium he had a little camera in his hand and immediately started taking snaps of the audience which was so funny and somehow made everybody relax. Steve had told me what a great performer he was and I was not disappointed, he was amazing and had most of the room up and swaying their arms. People like Catharine Zeta Jones and all those rich luminaries were all having a ball and I was right there, stood up swaying and singing at the top of my voice, “Sweet Caroline” la la la, next to the over excitable lady from the UK who I swear nearly fell off the balcony!

One more blog to go; we get a call from Bette!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hall of Fame (part two)

The day of the show the man had a run thru in the afternoon (pic below) so I took off and had my hair washed and ironed, just like his black shirt!

When I got back into the ballroom all the lights and cameras had found a home and the cables were miraculously tidy.
We had a couple of hours to relax and change into the show gear, there was a cocktail 'do' before the show and a cocktail 'do' after the show, they certainly made sure that the people got their money's worth ($3,000 a seat for the floor and $2,000 a seat for the balcony).

As we entered the room for the first cocktail session we passed by Dr John, Steve did an album with him years ago and as we were so close I tapped on his shoulder. Dr John looked amazing; purple suit, feathers and things in his hat, a walking stick with things carved all over it.

I couldn’t understand a word he said: Apparently he said "The Deacon!" and nudged somebody saying "this man plays great guitar, he did an album of mine" or something like that. The man was made up that Dr John remembered him and will treasure that moment.

We don’t drink so we did a tour of the room, winding our way thru all the frocks and bow ties then headed  upstairs to our allocated table.
The man and I were on the balcony for the dinner....which was great cos I could look down and do star spotting. On our table were two guys from Wall Street, a lady from ASCAP who was quite important I think. There was a couple from the UK who were huge Neil Diamond fans and before long they and the two Wall Streeter's were 'Neil' spotting from on high. The couple were from Durham and very nice although she was quite excitable. Neil actually knows them as they follow him everywhere which was pretty cool during his performance as he sang up to them when he recognized their shouts of adulation.

We managed to have most of the meal before the runner came up to get us, they wanted Steve downstairs . We joined Alice in his parlor.......a small area partitioned off by screens with a couple of chairs, a table and a mirror, the rest of the band were milling in and out in their glitter clad finery, we took some pics and jokes flew round like confetti.
It was nearly time for them to go on, so we all wound our way out into the crowd. Steve needs careful guidance in dark rooms so  we took our time to get to the holding area.

The kitchen was the holding area:  Waiters were banging through the swing doors as we ended up waiting for about 20 minutes, some got really brave and asked to have their photo taken with the band.
This was a musically historic occasion and the staff of The Warldorf knew that. 

Just as she was about to be announced, Bette Midler was hustled through the back of the kitchen to the swing doors, she was inducting Darlene Love ahead of the bands three songs. She stood right by Steve who had worked closely with her on the movie 'The Rose' in the 80's, he said "Bette it's Steve" but woosh she was gone through the doors and on to the stage.

More of the man and Bette Midler at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in the next part.


Reviews of 'Empty Spaces'

5.0 out of 5 stars What a lovely voice, February 9, 2011
J. Richardson "jrlvsblues" (Rio Rancho NM)
I have been a fan of Steve Hunter for years. When I heard that he was producing a
CD with his wife, I couldn't wait to hear it. Karen Ann, has a beauitful voice. She has
wonderful range, and you can just sit back,read a book and listening to her. The production
is first class, with the musical accompaniment backing. Steve's guitar work is as usual
outstanding. I look forward to listening to this often. Great effort, and highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars A MUSICAL COLLABORATION MADE IN HEAVEN, March 18, 2011
David Lowe (England)
This review is from: Empty Spaces (MP3 Download)
COMBINING Karen Ann Hunter's expressive vocals and accomplished songwriting skills with Steve "The Deacon" Hunter's extraordinary musicianship was a stroke of genius. The two of them were born to make music together, and what wonderful music they've given us with their debut "Empty Spaces" album. There's not a so-so track on it: they're all eminently listenable, whether you're relaxing at home, whiling away a long flight, or on the road behind the wheel. Indeed, several of the titles on "Empty Spaces" have that special quality of leaving the opening or hook-lines rolling around in your head until you've simply got to play the whole track again. If I was to be asked to sum-up "Empty Spaces" in just one word, that word would the "ethereal". Yes, the whole collection resonates with an other worldly quality; embroidered with some very clever lyric writing, plus Steve's masterful guitar playing - including those exquisite harmonics - and, of course, Karen's crystal clear, true voice. Take it from me, there are no "Empty Spaces" here: they are all filled with genuine world-class music making.

Thoroughly recommended!

DAVID LOWE (Producer~Presenter: B.B.C. Regional Radio & The LoweDown music column, the Herald Express provincial newspaper South West England)

This is one of the most beautiful collections of music ever recorded. This cd is up there with Celine but was written by Karen and all of the musical accompaniment is performed by and produced by her husband Steve "the Deacon" Hunter. Just take a listen to the sample clips presented here and you will be compelled to purchase the CD or MP3 download available here at the link. It is a beauty only exceeded by it's writer.

Steve Harris: March 19th 2011 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Hall of Fame Experience (part one)

Not sure where to start with this, my brain is on overload in the awesome experience dept;

First of all, I must thank the pilot of the 'far too small' airplane that got us into NY, that was the bumpiest hour and half I have ever had but he got us to the other end in one piece!

We were staying with Cindy and Dennis Dunaway who despite being in the middle of their own overload made us feel welcome and took great care of us. Dennis loves my album and played it three times during our stay, how cool is that!

The rehearsals in NY had gone well, each day the band got better and once Alice and the management team arrived things really took shape, the band were tight and there was a lot of laughter. 
We checked into The Waldorf on the Saturday after the remote rehearsals were done, to start a couple of days run through's in the main ballroom where the induction would take place. The Waldorf is very spectacular but the cost of doing anything apart from sneeze is even more spectacular!

Me and the man were pretty tired the first night and decided to drag our asses down to the restaurant, we had a lovely meal that cost more than two nights at the Holiday Inn!

But, the funniest thing was going down to have a light snack in the main foyer; we had popped in to check it out the day before. This time there was a huge buffet spread filling the whole front entrance hall. We were guided to our table and ordered two apple juices then waited.....and waited.

Eventually I asked the waiter for the menu, he said there was only the buffet today and it cost $95 per person. Ha ha, we laughed! I tried to pay for the apple juice but the waiter looked at me with head on one side in pity and said, "Don’t worry about that madam" and we left.

The ballroom on that first day was a cacophony of lights, camera's and huge cables, people dashing all over the place like ants, they all had ear monitors and mics and were talking to the air.
We were assigned a couple of sweet ladies whose job it would be to get us where we needed to be on the night.
My job was to make sure Steve got where he needed to be without tripping over equipment or cables plus I had to iron his black shirt for the big night....... me and the man are not big on ironing generally. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Driving myself crazy

I took my theory test for driving here in the USA! The place was packed but people were polite, a young man next to me started up a conversation after he sussed I was foreign. Oddly, he seemed very proud that he was back taking his learners permit for the third time because he had not done any homework on the rules of the road weird is that?

We had to go to the dentist last week, neither of us like the dentist and avoid it at all costs unless as in the man's case, there is an abscess gotta go, you gotta go!!

I rashly said yes to going to a dance type exercise class yesterday, 45 minutes of shaking things that risked causing a bodily tsunami. I may have to invest in a pair of depends if she make me jump up and down for too long next time! Apparently they do come in various colors these days so the TV tells me.

Today I had to add Ibuprophen to my breakfast! Of course the man thinks that is hillarious!

We are getting ready for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gig now, the new Gretsch custom guitars arrived and look fab. I will do a blog about our adventures in NY City.