Tag Archives: Birthdays

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Remembering Alan Blind Owl WilsonRemembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson
July 4…Happy birthday

On my Museum tours at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, when guest find out I was at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair they often ask, “Who was your favorite group?”

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Favorite?

My answer is that “It depends.” At the time of the concert, the Who had just released Tommy  and their performance at Woodstock included nearly their entire rock opera. The Who ended a long night of amazing music that greeted a sunrise which introduced the Jefferson Airplane. I loved all.

Remembering Alan Wilson

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Emerging favorites

Since I regularly listen to music from the festival, I now can hear and appreciate groups that at the time I didn’t notice as much.

Nowadays, my answer is Canned Heat: Bob Bear Hite rambling around the stage, Larry Mole Taylor on bass, Harvey Mandel just joining band on guitar, Adolfo de la Parra on drums, and Alan Blind Owl Wilson on guitar. A great line-up banging away with a great groove.

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Massachusetts-born

Alan Wilson was born on July 4, 1943 in Arlington, Massachusetts. Early on he developed a love not just of music (jazz in particular), but how music worked.

Like some other white kids of the 50s and 60s, Wilson also discovered the blues.  American norms had long-relegated the blues to the Jim Crow back roads of American society, whose arbitrary cultural mores considered it too rude and crude for “polite” society. The civil rights movement and the evolution of rhythm & blues into rock and roll exposed the blues to teenage white youth open to new views.

More interesting is that some British youth, like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Burdon, had done the same thing and formed bands to expand that discovery.

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Blues

Not only did Alan Wilson develop a love of the blues, he began to develop relationships with blues legends as they came to Cambridge, Massachusetts where Wilson lived.  Skip James (whose vocal style Wilson imitated) and Son House in particular.

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

John Fahey

Wilson also met John Fahey, a young white kid with an equal love of acoustic blues. Fahey convinced Wilson to  move to Los Angeles where Fahey was working on his master’s thesis. It was Fahey who lovingly gave Wilson the nickname “Blind Owl” because of Wilson’s extremely poor eyesight.

While in Los Angeles, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson met Bob Hite. His collection of blues recordings immediately bonded them. They formed Canned Heat, a name  from Tommy Johnson’s 1928 “Canned Heat Blues.” Where else?!

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Festivals

Canned Heat played two of the most iconic festivals in American rock history: the Monterey International Pop Festival and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Their recording of “Goin’ to the Country” became part of Woodstock film’s soundtrack.

Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Love of Nature

Alan Wilson loved Nature, but Alan Wilson suffered from one of Nature’s worst illnesses: depression. Canned Heat was readying for a fall 1970 European tour when he did not show up for the flight.

On September 3, they found Wilson dead in Bob Hite’s Topanga Canyon backyard where Alan lived in a tent.

From the Wilson site: “We will never know what Alan Wilson was thinking that night, as he unrolled his sleeping bag and looked up at the stars one last time. What we do know is that he was a talented musician and musicologist who promoted the revival of early Delta blues and left his own permanent mark on the blues and the music of the late 1960s. …We hope that this web site is a fitting tribute to his life.”

Wilson was 27 and sadly became part of what now we refer to as the 27 Club.

Remembering Alan Wilson

NYT article
Remembering Alan Blind Owl Wilson

Remembering Alan Wilson, Remembering Alan Wilson, Remembering Alan Wilson

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Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Jerry Lee Lewis, The Monkees, Canned Heat, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and many others
Monterey Pop Festival
Woodstock
Born June 26, 1942
Happy birthday

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Canned Heat @ Monterey Pop Festival, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”

Early years

Larry Taylor was born in New York City and seems to have played music his whole life. It was his brother, Mel, drummer for the Ventures, who led Larry into music. Larry played on a few of the Ventures’ albums.

Larry Taylor toured with Jerry Lee Lewis and was the session bassist for The Monkees.

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Canned Heat

His career went into high gear when he joined Canned Heat in 1966 at the request of Henry Vestine, its original guitarist (Harvey Mandel later replaced Vestine). Taylor received his nickname from Skip Taylor, Canned Heat’s manager. Each of the band’s members had one. “The Mole” came from Skip Taylor thinking that a split in Larry’s front tooth made him look like a mole.

I suppose it could have been worse.

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Woodstock

He described his Woodstock Music and Art Fair experience: It’s still the biggest crowd that I’ve ever played.  It’s hard to explain and to put into words.  You’d kind of have to have been there to really understand it.  I don’t really remember much.  It went by real fast.  In a way, it was like a shock. [Pop Addict interview]

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

Post-heat

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor

He left Canned Heat in 1970. He and Mandel joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for a stretch.

He later played with the Sugarcane Harris Band and The Hollywood Fats Band.

He has also played with Leo Kottke, Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, Charlie Musselwhite, John Hammond, JJ Cale, Tracy Chapman, Al Blake, and many others [All Music credits]

Nowadays, Taylor continues to play and occasionally with the re-formed Canned Heat.

Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor
CANNED HEAT 2018: FITO DE LA PARRA, JOHN PAULUS, DALE SPALDING & LARRY TAYLOR
Canned Heat Larry Mole Taylor
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Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Happy birthday June 17, 1947
Woodstock alum
2x Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Organist Gregg Alan Rolie
photo from greggrolie.com

We immediately recognize Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” Gregg Rolie’s organ slides in just before Carlos Santana’s guitar glides in. Percussion keeps us on track.

So smooth.

The opening continues a little more and then Gregg Rolie tells us that he has a black magic woman who’s trying to make a devil out of him.

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Palo Alto

Gregg Rolie grew up in Palo Alto, California. Prior to Santana, Rolie played with a group called William Penn and his Pals while attending Cubberley High School in Palo Alto.

After graduating, he met Carlos Santana through a friend who’d heard Santana play at Bill Graham’s Fillmore in San Francisco on a “locals” night. Rolie tells a story that the first time he and Santana played together they heard police arriving and ran out and hid in a tomato patch.

Such are some beginnings.

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Santana Blues Band

They formed the Santana Blues Band, later simply called Santana. The band’s appearance at Woodstock [at manager Bill Graham’s insistence], on the soundtrack, and in the movie lit the fuse that sent them into international orbit with all its enticements and danger.

That journey for Rolie lasted only two more years. In 1971 he left the band. In his words, “It just got to everybody. But at the same time, the one thing that we had in common was the music and that drive for the music. We did not know each other all that well so when the music faltered, we didn’t know how to express to each other what was going on, going wrong, or why.” [from > Herald Paris interview]

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Life after Santana

In 1973 with Santana guitarist Neal Shon, Rolie joining the newly formed Journey. Rolie was the band’s keyboardist and regularly did vocals.

Rolie left Journey in 1980 and did solo work until 1991 when he formed The Storm. In 1998, Rolie and other former members of Santana, including Neal Schon, briefly reunited as Abraxas Pool.

Today Rolie has his Gregg Rolie Band.

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

Double Hall of Famer

With Santana, Gregg Rolie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. And he was inducted again in 2017 as a member of Journey.

Here is a video Santana’s induction. Rolie’s brief comments occur at 5:50 if you’d prefer.

Here is a link to a Keyboard Magazine interview with Rolie from April 5, 2017 about his second induction.

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie

According to his siteGregg is a proponent of music education for children. In 2005, he signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and instruction to children in underserved public schools throughout the U.S.A. He sits on the organization’s Honorary Board of Directors.

Organist Gregg Alan Rolie
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