Tag Archives: Birthday

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

There is a sufficient Wikipedia entry  and an interview at the 4WaySite to suggest that a blogger could create a worthwhile post about Greg Reeves.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

One would think.

Reeves, as most 60s rock fans remember, was the bassist for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and played with them at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Solid.

After that, things are a bit hazy, but we are talking about the 60s and Woodstock alum.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

A few grains of salt

In the 4Way interview, Reeves says that, “…the very first instrument I learned to play was a miniature guitar… I taught myself from a book that came with the guitar. I was six-years-old and in the first grade.

His Wikipedia entry also states that “he may have graduated from Warren Western Reserve High School in Warren, Ohio in 1968.” If so, he graduated at the age of 13.  He must have skipped a few grades between first grade and high school.

Certainly not impossible, but implausible.

If his Wikipedia birth date  is correct (April 7, 1955) then Reeves was certainly the youngest performer at Woodstock: 14 years old!

In Reeves evasive words, “I was very young, very young!

Having said that, a December 1969 Rolling Stone article describes a “Greg Reeves, a quiet, 19-year-old .” Seems more likely, eh?

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Motown

Before Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Reeves had a Motown connection via Rick James and Motown producer and writer Norman Whitfield may have recruited Reeves.

All Music states that “The bass player in the recording [Cloud Nine by the Temptations] is Greg Reeves, who was soon to join Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.” Reeves says that while he was slated  to play bass on that song, he (with Whitfield’s suggestion) switched to tambourine.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Mynah Birds

Rick James’s wandering music path led him to Canada in the early 60s. There is a story of James getting into a fight there and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson rescuing him. Another story, another time.

In any case, James formed the Mynah Birds and  one of the players in that band was a young Neil Young.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Los Angeles with Rick James

So that it would seem that James introduced Reeves to Young when all three were in Los Angeles in the late 60s…but in the 4Way interview, Reeves explains things this way.

He’d been living with Rick James. Neil Young invited Greg to a party at the house Stephen Stills was renting from Monkee Peter Tork. The next day, “David [Crosby] and Graham [Nash] drove up to the apartment where we lived on Olive Drive at the time, right behind the Playboy Club on Sunset Blvd. From the pool I saw them knock on the door, and Rick yelled for me. They asked Rick James who I was and Rick came, got me and brought me out front to the limousine that Graham Nash and David Crosby were in and asked me in front of them, would I mind going with them to jam. I asked Rick James “Aren’t you coming too?”. He said “They want you to come alone”. I went back to the house, grabbed my Fender precision bass guitar and Gibson acoustic guitar, climbed into the limousine and never came back to Rick’s house again. They would not let me go. From the first time jamming with me, they would not let me leave. I stayed with Stephen Stills, Dallas Taylor and Graham Nash at Peter Tork’s mansion in Studio City.

To this day I don’t how Graham and David knew where Rick and I lived. 

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves
Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Here and gone

Reeves recorded and toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young from August 1969 to January 1970, including obviously the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

His account of that event is unique. I have read much about Woodstock but had never heard that, “When Graham Nash and me [and Dallas Taylor] arrived at Woodstock, it was raining buckets of water. We came via helicopter. The helicopter crashed landed on the main power line, that was supplying all of the electric power for the concert!

After the crash landing the pilot instructed us not to touch anything in the helicopter and sit still. We did this and it seemed at the time forever. It was hairy scary to say the least! To top off the misery, when it was our turn to play live, we discovered Chris (our roadie) had not flown our equipment to Woodstock correctly. I used Jim Fielder’s bass from Blood Sweat & Tears to play “Sea Of Maddness” with Neil and Dallas Taylor. It was pouring down rain when we performed. Jimmy Lee Marshall Hendrix was on stage with us laughing his ass off at us playing in the rain.”

In September 1969, the band played at that year’s Big Sur festival. You can see Greg in the background during their playing “Down By the River.”

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Stills v Reeves

For various reasons that come at different angles depending on who is doing the talking,  Reeves was asked to leave/was fired in April 1970. One side says Reeves was unreliable and into odd things. Another side says that Stephen Stills had ego issues. In any case, Reeves was gone.

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Life post CSN & Y

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

Neil Young was his best friend in the band and invited Reeves to play on Neil’s classic 1970 After the Gold Rush album.

Neil was also instrumental in getting Greg out of a Mexican prison. Reeves was there from September of 1977 through April 1978: I spent time in a Mexican jail with the Mexican president’s nephew as a political prisoner, because we had tried to smuggle marijuana across the border. True story! Neil Young sent me money (via Western Union) to pay the Mexican police (Judicial Government Police) for my freedom…

He stayed with music and then went away from music. Again from the (excellent) 4Way interiview: I went back to school and got an associate degree in Mandarin Chinese here in Orange County, Ca. at Coastline College. My transcript shows a 4.0 average – honest injun [smile]. I also got my head together serving God and being, as I am now, totally obedient to God.

The All Music site lists a long credit list. We can finally hear some of the music Greg has been writing all these decades now that he has released a single, Workin’ Man.

Happy birthday Greg. Whenever it is!

Mysterious Bassist Greg Reeves

 

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Father Steve Muruga Booker

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Happy birthday
27 December 1943
Muruga jamming on his invention, the Nada drum at Sage St. Studio (2015)

Father Steve Muruga Booker

I suppose every musician has their story of how they came to play.

In an 2000 interview with PT Quinn, Booker [or the original Bookvich] related his unique story: I would have to tell you that when I was a young man, I had a deep recall of being in the womb.  My mother used to go to the Latin Quarter in Detroit and hear Puncito, and I would hear the drums in the womb.  That influenced me somehow, but my Dad introduced me to the accordion at 3. I met one of his teachers… Misha Vishkov from Hamtramick at 6.  As well as accordion, Misha played the drums.  I’m a Serbian son raised with the gypsies. I liked the drum when he played it.  I wanted to play so I started at 14 and had some good teachers in high school.  At the Record Hop I noticed I could move all 4 of my limbs with the beat, and that would be the drums. 

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Woodstock

Steve Booker was the drummer who backed Tim Hardin at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, but at that time he was simply Steve Booker. He  was about to leave the Paul Winter Consort which had also included Woodstock band mates Ralph Towner and Richard Bock.

In any case, the way Steve relates his Woodstock connection, (from a Detroit Metro Times piece). “One day while in New York City, I went to see Jim and Jean. They were going to a jam at the Café au Go Go on Bleecker Street in the Village, which was the happening hippie place at that time. …Tim Hardin was also [there].  …I approached him… while walking down Bleecker Street. He said if I’m ever in need of a gig to call him, and he gave me his Woodstock home phone number.

Booker showed up a week later with friend Richard Bock. Hardin offered them both a spot in his then-organizing band.  They agreed and Hardin left them to practice without him for two days. Luckily, the group was used to improvisation and did well until Hardin returned.

Unfortunately, Hardin’s performance, despite the stellar back up band, was not one to remember. Being intimate on a drizzly evening in front of 400,000 people was not what a Hardin performance was made for.

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Swami Satchidanada

For Booker the event was literally life-changing. He met Swami Satchidananda whose spirituality immediately impressed Booker. Booker studied with the Swami for several years and it was Satchidananda who gave the name “Muruga” to Booker.

Booker continued to be a musician and eventually was ordained an Orthodox priest. Today he operates his own chapel, St. Gregory Palamas, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His spirituality led him to invent the nada drum, a variation on the talking drum.

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Michigan

The list of people Booker has played with is a who’s who of musicians. A very partial list includes: Peter Gabriel, George Clinton, Merle Sanders, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, John Lee Hooker, Al Kooper, Ted Nugent, and Dave Brubeck. (a more complete list)

Born in Michigan, he returned there to live in 2000.

Not surprisingly, when asked what his greatest success was, Booker’s response was, “My happy family: wife, Patty; son, Aaron; daughter, Rani; and my priesthood.”

Booker’s own words best sum up his life now:  You could say that the spirit of Woodstock continues for many of us through the spirit and heart that’s still in the music we love to play.

Father Steve Muruga Booker
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Bassist Charlie Bilello

Bassist Charlie Bilello

Bassist Charlie Bilello
Charlie Bilello (foreground) playing w Bert Sommer and Ira Stone at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Bassist Charlie Bilello

Bert Sommer’s band

Here is another Woodstock Music and Art Fair performer for whom little can be found. And if you know anything, please let me know.

Charlie Bilello played bass with Bert Sommer that Friday 15 August in Bethel, NY.  Woodstock fan, blogger and autograph hound Jake Lokensky wrote that he has not been able to locate Bilello, but did seek out Ira Stone, the other musician with Sommer that day.

Bassist Charlie Bilello

Jlokensky

According to Jlokensky, Stone and his wife Max were part of a fund-raiser the day he met Ira. Their [the Stones’s] set was dedicated to the memory of Bert Sommer. Three of the four songs they played were played by Mr. Sommer as part of his ten song set. “Jennifer”, which was a song written about fellow “Hair” cast member, and future singer, Jennifer Warnes, opened the set. Max then told a story about how Tim Hardin borrowed and made of with Bert Sommer’s guitar just prior to Mr. Sommer’s set. They then played Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter”. They played a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”, a song which allegedly earned Bert Sommer the first standing ovation of the Woodstock Festival. They concluded with another Bert Sommer original, “Smile”.

Bassist Charlie Bilello

Wade Lawrence

Wade Lawrence, the director and head curator at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ Museum, had similar problems finding much about Bilello: Bass player Charlie Bilello hasn’t been heard from for a number of years and is presumed to have retired from the music business or died.

I highly recommend reading Lawrence’s WoodsTALK blog which covers each of the Woodstock performers.

Bassist Charlie Bilello

According to a comment made by a “Les” at the West Virginia Surf Report site, “Charlie died in an accident in 1989.”

Bassist Charlie Bilello
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