Tag Archives: Woodstock Birthdays

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Happy birthday
March 24,  1940

Luis Gasca played in Janis Jopin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. That’s why I’m doing this blog piece, but like so many other times in my life, I’ve discovered that that momentous performance is simply one small piece in Gasca’s nearly lifetime of performances.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Houston

Luis Gasca grew up poor in Houston. His parents made and sold tamales.  Earning a living was first for them. Performing music was not part of the picture, but one day Luis saw two men playing trumpets and he felt something.

By the time he was 15 he was playing gigs and by 16 getting paid to play.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Berklee

By 18 he had a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and traveled on weekends to New York City and absorbed the music of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

He was drafted but afterwards lived in Japan awhile–playing trumpet, of course. Then to Oahu.

When asked about his love of the trumpet, he answered, “”It’s a very demanding instrument…. And I’ll never quit learning it. I got that at an early age: Never let anything slide. I have a hunger and a thirst for music. That love for something, that is the impetus to make you never never quit, to make you give it your all. That love cannot be taught. One has to love the music and the knowledge. I’m 100 % joyous playing music with other masters.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Count Basie and more

One of his greatest achievements was being a part of the Count Basie Band.

In 1969, he released  “The Little Giant” album. on Atlantic. Interestingly, one of the album’s cuts is “Motherless Child” made famous as part of Richie Haven‘s famous Woodstock improvisation of Motherless Child/Freedom as well as the very next song played at Woodstock, Sweetwater’s cover of the same song.

Gasco’s cover is like no Motherless Child you’ve ever heard:

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Solo artist

Gasca released three other albums: For Those Who Chant (1972), Luis Gasca (1972), and Collage (1976).  And though that discography may seem short, have a Snickers nearby if you’re going to look at his extensive credit list at AllMusic.

Among the names listed are Santana, Van Morrison, and Mike Bloomfield.

As sadly happened to many of his generation’s fellow musicians, the lifestyle overwhelmed him and he left music until the 90s.

Here he is in 2012 leading an all-star Latin Jazz Big Band – The Mambo Kings on the second night of a three-day Latin Jazz Festival.

Thank you, Luis, for everything your given our ears.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Drummer Maury Baker

Drummer Maury Baker

Happy birthday
December 25
Drummer Maury Baker
Janis and Maury on the Dick Cavett Show

Broken wrist

Many are the paths that lead to becoming a musician. Maury Baker’s family was filled with musicians and that certainly set up his entrance, but falling and breaking his left wrist was the catalyst.

His father, Herbert (an Emmy Award winning writer with the Flip Wilson Show and the Danny Kaye Show) suggested to his son that the best way to recover his wrist’s strength was to drum.

Before he knew it, “I had my union card” is how Maury jokes.

Drummer Maury Baker

Ars Nova

In 1967, while attending the Mannes Conservatory in New York,  Electra Records signed Ars Nova, a band he played percussion as well as organ. Elektra producer Paul A. Rothchild called them “the most exciting thing since the Doors.”

Ars Nova were promoted by Life Magazine with a profile, but ironically by the time of the article, the band had broken up.

Drummer Maury Baker

Janis

He became part of Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band in 1969. He had been playing with Judy Collins and her road manager suggested the audition to Baker. He wasn’t a part of the whole album being recorded (I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!), but was part of the single Try from the album.

One of his fondest memories of playing with Janis was performing Try with her on the Dick Cavett Show in July 1969

He went on the road and that road led to Bethel, NY and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. His biggest memory of the event is flying in a Sikorsky helicopter over the field. He said that the size of the crowd worried Janis, but he reassured her that it would not matter. That once she got up on the stage,  she’d just do her thing.

Drummer Maury Baker

Others

Being part of Janis’s inner circle gave Maury the opportunity to play with other names of those times, perhaps the most famous being Jimi Hendrix, who stopped by one night to jam with Zoot Money’s band.

Of course there are a “few” others listed at his site: Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, George Duke, Ron Carter, David Benoit, Jimmy Haslip, Bunny Bunel, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Tom Jones, Jackson Browne, Steve Stills, Van Morrison, Seals & Croft, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Bobbie Gentry, Trini Lopez, R. B. Greaves, Albert Lee, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Robert E. Luna, Booker T. Jones, Tom Paxton, Bobbie Gentry, Theodore Bikel, Zoot Money, Dr. John, Scott LaFaro, Pepper Adams, David Amram, Lee Michaels, Miroslav Vitous, Henry Franklin, Theo Saunders, Nick Mancini, Michael Saucier, Otmaro Ruiz, Leslie King, Barbara Morrison, Leddie Garcia, Austin Peralta, Zane Musa, and many others.

He also composed music for film, TV, video games, and the Internet.

Drummer Maury Baker

Nowadays

Recently, Baker has worked with Opera NEO. It’s Facebook page states that, “Opera NEO strives to unlock the full potential of young singers while nurturing each individual’s artistic qualities and personality to help them develop into independent artists. We encourage individual thinking and creative decision making that will lead to professional and personal fulfillment.”

There are pictures of him working with NEO at his own Facebook page.

Drummer Maury Baker

Kozmic Blues John Till

Kozmic Blues John Till

Kozmic Blues John Till
From Festival Express promo
Happy birthday
December 24, 1945

John Till was the guitarist in Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. His path from Stratford, Ontario  to that famous Bethel stage is an interesting one because it includes some familiar names along the way.

Kozmic Blues John Till

Musical family

John Till was born into a musical family. His mother played piano and his father played  pretty much any stringed instrument.

In his AllMusic bio, Joe Viglione wrote of Till: “Till’s family never pushed him into music or forced him to take lessons. They told him years later that their philosophy was to just have the musical instruments “around” and to make sure there was lots of music to be heard in the house. Till describes his parents as being “totally supportive” when he showed an interest in playing music himself. His father taught him to play the four-string tenor guitar and banjo by ear, and also taught him the concept of improvisation — “taking off on the chords” — which is such a big part of Dixieland. They weren’t rich, but when he became interested in rock & roll around the age of 11, they managed to buy him his first electric guitar and amp.”

Kozmic Blues John Till

Bands

At Stratford Central High, John and a few classmates formed the Revols. One of the band mates was Richard Manuel.

John later became part of Larry Lee & the Leesures and Max Falcom and the Falcons. At one point, Till played with David Clayton-Thomas who would also be at Woodstock with Blood, Sweat and Tears.

When Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm left Ronnie Hawkins, new Hawks replaced them. One group of replacements included Richard Bell, Larry Alamniuk, and John Till. Those three would go on to become part of Janis’s last band, The Full Tilt Boogie Band, but John was with Janis before that.

Till can be heard on Hawkins’s 1967 single, “Home From the Forest.”

Kozmic Blues John Till

Who’s Janis Joplin?

John stayed with the Hawks until July 1969 when he replaced Sam Andrew in Janis’s Kozmic Blues Band.

It was after Janis abandoned the Kozmic Blues Band that she “created” the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The reason for qualifying the word create, is because the Full Tillt Boogie Band had actually begun as a side project of John Till and thus the double-L spelling of Tillt.

Kozmic Blues John Till
Till performing w Janis Joplin on the Dick Cavett Show

On January 19, 2018, the day that Janis would have been 75, John Till spoke on CBC radio about his time with Janis. Here are some of his observations:

  • before he joined the band, he’d never heard of Janis.
  • he wondered what he’d gotten himself into, but…
  • he realized her greatness when he first heard her live
  • he thought her performance at Woodstock was great because all the delays would have given her an excuse to slide
  • he thought Janis felt isolated at that point in her career and that that sense of isolation pushed her to the use of opioids
  • he said that she felt the Full Tilt Boogie Band was the perfect band and that “She’d be pissed if they ever left her.”
  • following the band tour and back in California recording her last album, Pearl, she would take out for dinner John, his wife Dorcus, and son Michael.
  • she made a purple necklace for Dorcus
  • the song, Buried Alive In the Blues was the only song on the album that she didn’t sing live with the band as she’d done with all the other cuts. The band recorded it separately. She never did record a vocal because she died before she could. It became an instrumental on the album.
  • the band was unaware of her opioid use.

Also regarding the Full Tilt band from a Wikipedia entry: Joplin and her management then hired Till, bass player Ken Kalmusky (also from Stratford, and who used the stage name “Ken Campbell”), as well as pianist Ken Pearson (from nearby Woodstock, Ontario), to fill out her new band, called Full Tilt Boogie. The band appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and were booked on the Festival Express which toured across Canada. The group recorded their classic Pearl album, which reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts in 1971, after Joplin’s death.

After Joplin’s death, and the subsequent breakup of Full Tilt Boogie, Till played with Bobby Charles, Bob Burchill and his ensemble in the Stratford apartments.

In the foreword of Love, Janis, Laura Joplin’s biography of her relationship with her famous sister, Till and his Stratford born wife, Dorcas, are thanked for providing some of the material for the book.

Kozmic Blues John Till

Lifer

Kozmic Blues John Till
John on left

After Janis’s death, John moved to Woodstock, NY and did sessions with Bobby Charles at the Bearsville studios. He returned to Canada in 1976. He continued playing and occasionally recording for other artists. He teaches guitar as well.

His current (last?) band is (was?) called B.W. Pawley & Plum Loco. Friend Ken Kalmusky  had been the band’s bass player until his death in the fall of 2005. John’s son Shawn now plays bass. Postings and comments on their Facebook page suggest that the group disbanded in June 2016.

Kozmic Blues John Till