Monday, June 20, 2016

Mike Anaya: Working Behind The Scenes In Hollywood

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Mike Anaya just returned from three weeks in Hawaii working on a kids show for Nickelodeon and that’s after working on Season Five of ‘The New Girl.’ That’s just the tip of the iceberg. On the ‘Real Men’ campaign for Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, he worked with Justin Timberlake shaving with a chainsaw. He had to keep Bradley Cooper’s cereal box looking fresh, as he was eating it out of the box with a serving spoon, and watched Jamie Foxx use a remote control as a bottle opener. He was there when Sean Penn used an iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches and no less than Halle Berry asked him if he was a professional voice over actor.

I met Mike Anaya in December of 2003. Originally from Reno, Nevada, he had been working in the ever declining music business and was looking for something else to earn a living.  I needed someone to assist me on photo shoots and since he was available and capable I hired him whenever I could.  We worked on dozens of photo sessions all while he pursued other ways of earning an income in Hollywood.  Over time he found a lot of work in event productions and eventually television, music videos and commercials.

It’s no surprise to me he has become successful working in Hollywood (no easy feat) because he gives his all to anything he is doing. He is reliable, dependable and always early for his call time.

Mike has also worked with entertainers such as Coldplay (three different times), Madonna, Adele, Katy Perry, U2, Terrence Howard, Eminem, The cast of New Girl which has included Megan Fox, Forrest Whitaker and Sofia Vergara, just to name a few.

Besides finding professional success Mike also found personal happiness this past year when he got married in Hawaii to a girl he has known since childhood.  

AM:  Mike when I first met you, you were working in the music business. Right around that time the music business took a dramatic turn downward.  What was that like for you?

MA:  That was a hard time because I didn’t know my direction or what else to do.  That’s when I met you and that got me into photography.

AM:  But you always had an interest in photography, right?

MA:  Yes, I always did want to take photos.

AM:  So you started working with me at photo shoots but you were also led into other careers.  What did you do then?

MA:  I started working on large scale events like big concerts.

AM:  What exactly did you do at first?

MA:  I would set up the VIP area, site crew for EDC and Hard Summer and Hard Summer and Hard Halloween and I’ve stage managed for Live Nation a few times.  These are all different large scale events I worked on.  These jobs would often be several days long.

AM:  What does setting up a VIP area involve?

MA:  Setting up tables and chairs. Decorating the area and making it look extravagant for the clients.

AM:  Did you want to be doing this sort of job?

MA:  I just fell into it. Not a bad thing. I just never thought about doing something like that.

AM:  So how did you move forward into other avenues?

MA:  I discovered the guy I was working for was an art director in films. He ended up hiring me for my first commercial. When I discovered how much money those people made working on commercials, I decided I wanted to work in that area of production. So from there I ended up working in television.

AM:  How many days is an average commercial shoot?

MA:  Anywhere from one to ten days.

AM:  After you started working in commercials did you still work on live events?

MA:  Yes, I kept doing live events until about three years ago. Now I focus on television and commercials only.

AM:  I know you have worked on some big name music videos.  Tell me about that.

MA:  I’ve only done a few.  I worked with Coldplay on a couple videos. I worked on one of Adele’s first videos, ‘Chasing Pavements’ and on ‘Ghost Town’ with Madonna.

AM:  What experiences stand out in your memory as something really cool or special?

MA:  Late last year I worked on an NFL spot for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. I was happy for the job as I had an opportunity to play catch with Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys. They are my second favorite team. Also I did an Eminem video last year and John Malkovich had a cameo. I was resetting his sodas for the screen. He shook my hand afterwards.

AM:  What’s it like working with all these big names?

MA:  I’m normally fine but I was super nervous around Halle Berry.

AM:  Does anyone stand out as being super nice?

MA:  Chris Martin of Coldplay made me feel comfortable. When I told him I saw his first show in LA he told me I must be old. Then on the third job I did with him, he came up and shook my hand first thing when he saw me.

AM: Well if you’re only going to work on a few, those are the ones!  How do you like those long hours?

MA:  I actually like it a lot. It’s pretty fun but it does get monotonous after a while hearing the same song over and over for ten to twelve hours.

AM: I never thought about that. 

MA:  No matter what is going on, they are playing the same song very loud all day long.

AM:  What television shows have you worked on?

MA:  I just finished working on three different shows back to back.  One is called ‘Cooper Barrett’ for Fox.  It has been on television already.  Not sure if it got picked up or not. That led me into working on ‘The New Girl.’ I just finished this past season and then I went to Hawaii for three weeks working on a kids show for Nickelodeon called Paradise Run 2.

AM:  Have you found a new home in television work then?

MA: No, I am still searching. (Laughter) I think I like commercials the best.

AM:  What would your ultimate job be?

MA:  Voice over work!  I have always been told I had the perfect voice for it.

AM:  I agree you have a great voice and would be a really good at that.  Do you think you may go full circle and return to music in some way?

MA: Actually I have been getting interest and I do believe I’m going back into the music business.

AM:  In what capacity?

MA:  Doing event production again.

AM:  That’s your first love anyway.

MA: Yes, that’s why I moved to Los Angeles in the first place.

AM:  Do you think working in Hollywood is different from working in other cities?

MA:  Yes out here it’s very cut throat.  It’s really about who you know.  You have to build good solid relationships to get ahead.

AM:  I’m so proud of you Mike.  You have become very successful working in Hollywood. A person doesn’t always get to do what they love the most at first.  What is your advice to anyone looking to come to Los Angeles to work behind the scenes?

MA:  Lots of people have asked me that question all the time.  I always say to follow your heart and keep chasing your dreams. That’s the bottom line.  Whatever you feel inside, you have to keep pursuing it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mamie Van Doren: A Sex Symbol of a Certain Age

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Mamie Van Doren has been a close friend for over a decade now.  She was the very first interview I did on my blog in February 2009.  I featured her again in September 2010 with a more in-depth interview and lots of photos.  In March of 2015 we did our 10 year anniversary photo session. If you haven’t seen any of these blogs you should check them out in addition to this one.  The links are right below.  You will be able to learn more about her past in these blogs. Now we focus on the future of this Sex Symbol of a Certain Age.

AM:  Mamie, recently Alan Eichler put some videos on Youtube of you performing your nightclub act from the early 80’s. My jaw dropped open when I saw them.  You are amazing.  Did you know how good you were?

MVD:  No, I never even thought about it. I was blessed with the ability to entertain people and I don’t have a problem with it. I know I don’t have the strongest voice.  I’m not Barbra Streisand, but I have always felt the music.

AM:  You do a great job singing.

MVD: It comes from within. It’s a portrayal and when I sing a song it all comes out. People can actually feel it.  I like intimate rooms because it makes the performance more personable and you can reach people more so than in a huge auditorium where you can get kind of lost. 

AM:  Did you perform to large crowds in Vietnam?

MVD: No when I was entertaining in Vietnam in fire stations, it wasn’t that large.

AM:  I know you worked hard out there.

MVD: They were very much in need of entertainment. They were starving for it. I would often work on a tank. I’d be on stage for an hour and have them come up on stage with me so I could hug, kiss and sing to them. 

AM:  I know they were thrilled to see you in person.

MVD:  They really adored me and I was so thankful I could do something for them. No one back in the States realized the torment they were going through. They were risking their lives and many didn’t come back. They didn’t want to be there anymore than we wanted them to be there.  That was so sad. It was a terrible war.

AM:  I can’t believe you had the courage and stamina to go there.

MVD:  I’ve always had the feeling of wanting to do things like that.  I was born this way. I feel like I was meant to go out and do that.

AM:  So your entertaining is tied in with healing others.  You went to Vietnam and you also worked the first AIDS benefits before anyone else.

MVD:  I did a lot of AIDS benefits. I was one of the first along with Vivian Blaine. I went to all the gay clubs and performed. That’s how it all started.  I raised $40,000 which was a big deal in those days.

AM: It’s still a big deal.

MVD: People today don’t know what really happened in those days.  It wasn’t until Rock Hudson died two years later that people started talking and then of course Elizabeth Taylor took over. She was able to make a lot more money. Unfortunately Elizabeth wouldn’t let me come to any of the functions anymore. That was unkind of her.  All the people who had helped for the first two years never got the credit they deserved.

AM:  That information is starting to get now. Alan Eichler has really helped in getting that word out.

MVD:  Many people did a lot of good things that nobody knows about today.  I was one of the only ones who got up and sang.  At least I was doing something. I believe very deeply in karma. People go through bad karma and it’s a natural thing, but it disappears and then the good karma comes.  You just have to get through the bad karma first.

AM:  You have to make the right choices right?

MVD:  Yes, when I am experiencing good karma I like to take advantage of it because I know I’m going to get some bad karma again. I believe this has to do with a past life. (Laughter)

AM:  Mamie you used to wear a lot of Chanel, but now you are through with it?

MVD:  Oh yes! It’s too matronly looking and passé for me. (Laughter)

AM:  So now you are reinventing yourself as a teenager.

MVD: Oh yeah, I’m getting my clothes from Dolls Kill and wearing a nose ring.

AM:  You’re doing all the things the kids are doing now, right?

MVD:  Yes, but I’m ahead of them.  I’ve got plans for the next decade. I’ve been through my old stage and I don’t need it anymore.

AM:  You’re not tired of social media yet are you?  Some people get tired of it.

MVD:  No, I like attention even though I’m very private. That’s one of the reasons I moved to Newport Beach. In Hollywood it’s like living in an open book. I’m not into gossip. I’ve been living here since 1966.

AM:  You have always been ahead of your time and you still are.

MVD:  Well, bless your heart. I am so elated and grateful that we met and became friends.

AM:  It was meant to be.

MVD:  You are part of my karma. You are part of me.

AM:  I agree and you are a part of me and you always have been.

MVD:  Yes, when I don’t see you for a year and then you’re here it’s like you never left. It’s like it’s the next day.  I think of you all the time.  You’re always on my mind. I even feel like I am a part of your family.

AM: That’s because you are.

MVD:  You’re a big part of my life and I love you.

AM:  I love you too sweetheart.

For more on Mamie Van Doren visit her web site

Monday, May 30, 2016

Larry Ferguson Is Mr. Nashville

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Larry Ferguson is a native of Louisville Kentucky. As an only child he grew up loving music and television. At three years of age he fell in love with Dolly Parton. By the time he was a young teen he was modeling for Alix Adams Agency. He also co-hosted ‘Louisville Tonight Live’ while still in High school.

As a teenager he helped local concert promoters promote country music and gospel music shows. At 18 he started his own concert promotions company, Larry Ferguson Promotions.

A dream came true when his other lifetime love, the legendary singer/songwriter Dottie Rambo asked him to manage her. At this time he moved to Nashville. There he launched a major, successful comeback for Dottie. He authored the book, ‘Driving Ms. Dottie’ about his life on the road with her.

He co-created and was one of the producers for a 2 hour concert television special ‘We Shall Behold Him,’ hosted by Barbara Mandrell and featuring Crystal Gayle, Larry Gatlin, Barbara Fairchild, Dolly Parton and many others. The special was nominated for an NRB award.

Larry and Dottie were like family and he managed her until a 2008 concert tour bus crash killed Dottie and left him broken up physically and mentally.

As a music producer he has produced many artists including, Carol Channing, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Little Richard, Patti Page, Lynn Anderson, Ricky Skaggs, Mamie Van Doren, Lily Tomlin, Joe Diffie, Solomon Burke, Tanya Tucker just to name a few.

Tentatively scheduled in 2016 is a musical CD tribute to Dottie Rambo with 30 artists and 18 songs written by the legendary songwriter. This summer he starts airing his new internet talk show, ‘Mr. Nashville Talks.’

Larry is a single father of two boys Christian, 16 and Pierce, 11.

AM:  Larry, let’s start with the obvious.  How did you get the moniker of “Mr. Nashville?”

LF:  Actually this story has two extremes. I was in New York for a meeting and I got to meet Joan Rivers. She kept calling me “Nashville” and then she started calling me Mr. Nashville and heckling me a little bit. That was the first time. Even people on the street in New York called me Nashville because of my accent. Then I met Sarah Palin at a reception and she started calling me Mr. Nashville. Then I saw her again some time later and she remembered me and called me Mr. Nashville again. 

AM:  You are a memorable person Larry.  Nobody is going to forget you!

LF:  That’s probably a bad thing. 

AM:  No, quite the opposite.  So how did you decide to make the name stick?

LF:  Originally I was going to do a radio show and everything was set to go but then they started wanting to control everything like what guests I would have so there was no way I wanted to do that. 

AM:  That would not have been fun.

LF:  I started a web site then and started posting news items about Country music and Nashville legends from a Nashville perspective. 

AM:  So you are covering all types of entertainment from a Nashville point of view?

LF:  Right, the people don’t have to be from Nashville at all. I am the Nashville part.  I want to feature people that I miss seeing and hearing about. These are artists who are still making great music or doing theater. People still have an interest in these artists but since they are no longer on TV regularly people don’t know what they are doing. 

AM:  What do you think about the current status of celebrity?

LF:  There are no stars anymore.  Everyone is a celebrity, but no stars.

AM:  We are losing the legends left and right and we’re not creating new ones.

LF:  There’s no Hollywood glamour anymore. On rare occasions there is still a hint of it. The Oscars looked like an upscale prom.

AM:  Do you think your internet show will ever be on TV?

LF:  I hope it is. I’ve had a few people tell me they would love to air it, but I want to make sure that I won’t get into the same situation like the radio show. I have to own the show and control it.

AM:  You’ve started taping several segments already so you’re on your way.

LF:  Yes, I’d like to maybe make a television special out of this. Eventually I would love to have a weekly series. I love to just sit down and talk. I miss shows like that.  I miss Dick Cavett and Phil Donahue. Basically I’m filling a role that somebody else should already be doing. 

AM:  What makes you the right person for this job?

LF:  I like to talk and I DO listen. That’s missing from a talk show perspective.

AM:  You are not just talking to people that a publicist threw in front of you.  Your heart is involved from the beginning.  That’s what’s missing from talk shows now.

LF:  Exactly, now talk show hosts are basically actors. Everything is done behind the scenes by fifteen to twenty people involved.

AM:  There are no genuine conversations anymore.

LF:  I don’t have to do all this research because I know who these people are.

AM:  What do you do differently to get an interesting conversation going?

LF:  I try to bring up subjects that haven’t been talked about as much. This way the person I am talking to isn’t bored by the same old questions.

AM:  Who would your dream guests be for ‘Mr. Nashville?’

LF:   Of course Dolly Parton would be my number one choice. I’ve worked with her a lot. She is my ultimate.

AM:  You’ve had a working relationship with Dolly for years.

LF:  Yes, I’ve been very fortunate. I worked with Dolly a lot when I managed Dottie Rambo. She’s been a great friend who has been very good to me. She sang on a few records that I have produced. When Dottie died, Dolly brought me to Dollywood and we planted a rose in Dottie’s honor. She gave me this beautiful vase made of hand blown glass that had peacock feathers painted on it. The wonderful thing is Dottie collected peacock art so it felt like it was meant to be.

AM:  What about some TV people?

LF:  I want to get Marla Gibbs so bad. I love her. I grew up with her.

AM:  The young people don’t even know who any of these people are.

LF: You know what Alan, I have discovered that if the information is out there the younger audience does discover and appreciate these older talents. They just never see them so they haven’t discovered them yet.    

To learn more about Larry visit his web site 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Waylon Payne Shines His Light

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Country singer/songwriter and actor Waylon Payne is the son of Jody Payne, a guitarist in Willie Nelson's band, and Grammy winning Country Music singer Sammi Smith. He was named after his godfather, Waylon Jennings. He began his career writing songs and playing with other musicians. Notably, he placed ‘Elvis’ and ‘Sing Til I Stop Crying’ on Pat Green's album ‘Wave on Wave’ in 2003, also singing and playing guitar on the disc. He had already finished recording his own album, ‘The Drifter,’ without a label deal and was playing with Willie Nelson in New York when Green suggested he play the record for Green's label, Republic/Universal.

Waylon Payne was signed to the label, which released ‘The Drifter’ on June 22, 2004. It attracted critical praise and was tapped by other artists for material. Django Walker put ‘Her (She's Gone)’ on his album ‘Six Trips Around the World,’ and ‘The Bottom’ was covered by both Keith Gattis, producer of ‘The Drifter,’on ‘Big City Blues,’ for which Waylon sang background vocals, and Charlie Robison on ‘Good Times.’

Waylon was cast in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in the Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line,’ which opened in 2005. Waylon's appearance on the soundtrack album allowed him to share the Grammy Award won by the disc. He was next cast in the starring role of Hank Garland in the 2006 biopic ‘Crazy.’ In 2010 he played the bad guy in ‘Road To Nowhere.’ In 2014 he has also starred in ‘The Identical.’  It’s loosely based on Elvis and the cast includes Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd.

Coming up in 2017 is a documentary titled ‘The Drifter: The Waylon Payne Story’ about his time in Los Angeles recording ‘The Drifter,’ his decent into drugs and the loss of his mother filmed from 2002 to 2005. His critically acclaimed album ‘The Drifter’ was reissued on March 11, 2008.

AM:  How are you Waylon?

WP:  I’m good buddy, how about you?

AM:  I just got back from working in Los Angeles.

WP:  I need to go out there and work soon.

AM:  Yes you do.  Everyone loves you out there.

WP:  I love it out there as well, but I’m trying to get myself together here in Nashville.

AM:  I think that’s the smart thing for you to do.

WP:  I think so too.  Hollywood will always be there and provided I don’t get any older I’ll be alright (Laughter)

AM: You’re a man so you can work the rest of your life.

WP:  Well from your mouth to God’s ears. 

AM:  So are you focusing on music while you’re in Nashville?

WP:  Right now I’m in the studio with Frank Liddell.

AM:  Didn’t you just record a new album?

WP:  I’ve got this album called the ‘Prodigal’ that’s kind of cool that I recorded in Texas. It’s all about me getting sober, dealing with the death of my dad and being a forty something year old man.  I think it’s on the back burner just for a slight minute because Frank Liddell wants to do a new record on me.

AM:  How exciting to have Frank Liddell want to work with you.

WP:  I’m going to let myself be steered a little bit and give myself a real shot. I don’t know if it’s selling out or cashing in. (Laughter) I figure I’m on this path and doing really well.  I’m making some strides. I’d like this next project to be the best that it can possibly be.

AM:  Is there anything else you are working on? 

WP:  I’m focusing on writing now.  I’ve got some songs coming up on some other artist’s albums but I can’t reveal who yet.  It’s very exciting. That’s what’s going on.  I also play and sing harmony in Lorrie Morgan’s band now, which is a dream come true.  I’m staying busy in Nashville and seeing what’s supposed to be next. 

AM: That’s great.  What about any movies?

WP:  I have a film called ‘Turnabout’ and it’s playing in a lot of film festivals right now. It’s screening in LA for the Cinefest.  You never know, it could be a hit.  I really enjoy working in films. I actually treasure the experience.

AM:  Your film career came out of nowhere, right?

WP:  I had a bad experience in high school with a drama teacher who told me I should probably be doing anything in the world except acting.  Then I realized later on in my life that all I’ve ever been doing is acting. (Laughter) You put on different faces for people to let them see what they need from you.  I really enjoy the technical side of acting. 

AM:  Who are your acting heroes?

WP:  Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and anyone who is excellent at their craft. I like to go on set and pretend that I am a Hollywood legend and try to give it my all.
AM:  I’ve seen most every film performance you’ve ever done and I always love you.

WP: (Laughter) I’m so sorry about some of them.

AM:  You are always good no matter what, but I’m really excited about you recording a new album with Frank Liddell.

WP:  He’s one of the biggest producers in Nashville.  He produces Miranda Lambert and Lee Ann Womack.  He’s a great man.  We’ve known each other for twenty five years. He was my publisher in 2006 when I went through my journey to get sober. He welcomed me with open arms when I came back. He gave me my job back.  He’s a saint. 

AM:  People are good to you because beyond your talent, they can see a good soul with a beautiful heart.

WP:  That’s what I strive for. All I want to do is be a beacon and an inspiration.
AM:  What about the documentary about your life.  How is that coming along?

WP:  It’s called ‘The Waylon Payne Story’ and it’s coming soon.  We just teamed up with another group of folks who want to take this thing worldwide. They think that telling the story of overcoming amphetamine use is an important one to tell.

AM:  I have to agree with that. So you are happy with the film?

WP:  The best thing about this documentary is it captured my entrance into music and film. We started shooting it in 2002 when I just got to Hollywood and decided to make a record with Keith Gattis.  We got the recording of the whole album on film. They followed me on a daily basis from 2002 until 2005 when my Mom died. They got the birth of this guy trying to be a Country singer and also getting into a heavy methamphetamine problem.  They captured the whole crash to the bottom.

AM:  Wow, talk about timing.

WP:  The best part about it is they have the whole rebirth too. We’ve turned it into something that will help folks understand what methamphetamines do to people.  The doctors come on and tell you exactly what the addiction is.

AM:  That is so important. It will help many people.

WP:  They’ve got me living through it.  I’m extremely proud of it and I hope that people get something good out of it. It was a journey that almost killed me a few times.  I’m really glad that I’m alive!

AM:  I am too Waylon.  You are a very special person. Keep shining your light!

WP:  Like I said, I just want to be an inspiration and a beacon. That’s what I do.

Follow Waylon on Twitter

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bebe Buell: The Mother's Day Blog

All Photos: Alan Mercer      Hat: Moonshine Nettie
To see these photos larger please click on them.

It is almost impossible to capture the remarkable life and career of Bebe Buell in a few paragraphs.  Her lengthy and respected musical career has shown her to be an important artist with razor sharp musical instincts; a singer, songwriter and performer with a power and command rarely seen in entertainers. Bebe has the unequaled gift of being able to delve into a song and spark it to life with immediacy and poignant raw emotion; whether performing her own works or her always groundbreaking choices of songs by other writers.  
Bebe's unique, multi-faceted talent manifested itself at an early age. At ten years old she began singing in the Villa Maria Academy choir sporting an "alto" a very unusual, deep vocal range for a young girl, that caught everyone's ear.     
Upon graduating from high school she was discovered by super- agent Eileen Ford of Ford Models. She was whisked away from Virginia Beach to New York City and hit the Manhattan music scene as soon as she arrived. She soon became involved with legendary rock musician Todd Rundgren. At the time, she was living in a woman’s residence run by nuns.

Affectionately called "Friend To The Stars", Bebe earned that title because of her closeness to everyone from Jack Nicholson to Patti Smith, and her carte blanche access to rock's elite royalty. She was frequently dubbed a "legendary beauty" by photographers and peers alike. Mick Jagger was once quoted as saying that he could bring Bebe "when I dine with royalty."

Bebe's musical career jumpstarted with her first release, ‘Covers Girl’ in 1981 produced by Ric Ocasek and Rick Derringer. It was a four song EP of obscure cover songs featuring legendary group The Cars backing her on two of the tracks, which was also, coincidentally, Rhino Records first release. Bebe's pure love of music and natural sense of cool come through on these recordings.

When Bebe's daughter Liv found out her father was really Steven Tyler, not Todd Rundgren, 1991 became a year of big changes. Well documented in the media, Bebe has said in interviews that she didn't want to tell Liv who her real father was because of Steven's heavy drug addiction at the time. Todd had known that he was not the biological father of Liv but had kept the secret in order to give both Bebe and Liv some semblance of a stable home. Steven got sober and the news of Liv's parentage was no longer a secret.

In 2000, the Oscar winning film "Almost Famous” was released. Writer/director Cameron Crowe based the film on elements of Bebe's life. Some of the film's dialogue is directly taken from quotes of Bebe's that Crowe had remembered from their friendship which began decades earlier in 1973 on the road with Todd Rundgren.

Bebe completed her autobiography, "Rebel Heart; An American Rock And Roll Journey" (St, Martin's Press) in 2001. It quickly became a New York Times best seller. The following year she married Jimmy Walls of Das Damen and Vacationland fame. In 2008 they bought a house in the New York City area and began the concept for Bebe's next musical chapter. The result was two critically acclaimed albums "Sugar" and "Hard Love" and performing for capacity audiences in New York City and the Northeast United States.

The singer/songwriter and pop culture icon now calls Music City home. Bebe, dubbed the “Mother Of Rock & Roll” came to Nashville in 2012 to sing on an Eddy Arnold tribute album for local label Plowboy Records. Being a Southern girl at heart (she was born and spent her childhood in Virginia) Bebe immediately fell in love with the city.

In her short time in Music City, Bebe has graced several local stages including three sold out shows at the iconic Bluebird Café and recorded at famed studios, RCA Studio B and Sound Emporium. She has also been songwriting prolifically, including a duet with Crystal Gayle (who joins her onstage regularly).

This year is shaping up to be one of Bebe Buell's most exciting yet. In addition to her new music, band and stage show, expect projects in film and a return to the literary world. Bebe has never allowed herself to be stereotyped or pigeonholed. A musician, mother, muse, model, celebrated lover, manager, best-selling author, and pop culture icon, music has always held her deepest passion.   

Scarf designed by Manuel  Hat designed by Ivy  Silberstein 

AM:  Bebe, wasn’t it two years ago on Mother’s Day that you did your first sold-out Bluebird show?

BB:  Yes, Mother’s Day 2014 was my LIVE debut in Nashville. So Mother’s Day holds a very special place in my heart, not only because I’m a mother and I have a third grandchild coming in July, but because I had an epiphany with my first live show at the Bluebird Café. And I got my first break here at The Bluebird thanks to Erika who gave me a shot. I’m very connected to the spirit of Mother’s Day.

AM:  I’d say so.

BB: Another thing I like about Mother’s Day is it's an empowering celebration of women- the Mother.  A tip of the hat to childbirth. Not everyone can grow a human being in their body! And then give birth to a new life.

AM:  What is your message to your audience?

BB: My message to people is you can do anything for as long as you want, as long as you do it well, as long as you have something to say. Some examples of people I can think of now are Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Jane Goodall and your friend Mamie Van Doren. There’s a wealth of knowledge that comes from a woman who’s lived a full life. You don’t have to ever be jaded. I still feel like a child when I see things for the first time. I continue every day to see things through fresh eyes. People say to me, “Oh you’ve seen it all. This isn’t your first time at the rodeo!”
Well, I’ve never been to a rodeo. Each thing that happens to me is a new experience. Even if there are similarities to something else, it’s still something enlightening and new. My message is the empowering of the human spirit to keep going even in the eyes of adversity.

AM: That’s a great message.

BB: Sometimes that attitude makes people jealous but I’m trying to stop that. I don’t want people to be envious. I want them to be empowered. I’ve also been called the Mother of Rock & Roll for years and years.

AM:  Who was the first to call you that?

BB:  Maybe it was Jack Nicholson, I’m not sure. Joey Ramone came up with "The Girl With Windex Colored Eyes" way back in the late 80's. And I've always been a "Rebel Heart".

AM:  That is a great moniker. Why do you think people think of you as the Mother of Rock & Roll?

BB:  I think I got it from being so motherly to all my friends. I love taking care of people, cooking for them, inspiring people and helping them come up with ideas. That will always be part of who I am even though my own art is very important to me. Then I can go up onstage and my Bebe Bad Ass comes out... my healing continues with my music and message. My strength continues in my persona which embodies my inner courage. I find so much happiness from performing. Entertaining people is in my DNA for sure!

Scarf designed by Manuel

AM:  I know you released a single called ‘Secret Sister’ and ‘Hello Music City.’ Of course I own and love them both! Do you plan anymore recordings in the near future?

BB:  I wrote those songs when I first came to Nashville in the summer of 2013 with my husband Jim and Jon & Sally Tiven. Jon was really helpful in getting me started on a fresh path and I'm eternally grateful. I'm writing constantly but what I'm working on right now is a big passion for me. My One Woman show I'll be calling "Rebel Soul". Yes, it's a continuation to my New York Times best selling bio "Rebel Heart", which came out in 2001.

AM:  Are you going to be on stage by yourself?

BB: Even though it’s called a one woman show I’m going to have a couple people up there with me. It’s a stripped down show with only a drummer and a guitar. I’ll be telling stories about my life and singing songs.

AM:  I am excited about your one woman show!

BB:  I’m traveling light with a drummer and a guitar player. My drummer will also sing so there will be harmonies. Of course my husband Jim will be the guitar player. He’ll be able to handle that very well all by himself. I love two piece bands anyway, and as much as I love bass guitar, you'd be surprised at the things my husband can do on a guitar. He's got game and then some!

AM:  Who is your drummer?

BB:  I haven’t decided on the drummer yet although I have a couple of candidates. I’m hoping it can be a woman actually. I would love that. Jim and I are forging ahead and getting all the material together so whoever we bring on board will feel comfortable and be ready to jump right in. I love the drummer I've played with for almost three years, Shannon Pollard, but he's got an empire he's running and won't be able to tour so we've got to find someone who wants to hit the road.

AM:  What made you decide to do this show?

BB:  The reason I’m doing it is because I’ve been in loud Rock & Roll bands my whole life and a lot of people tell me it’s the story telling and the healing aspect of what I do that they get so much benefit out of. So it dawned on me that I need to go back into the Bluebird in a stripped down format. You can lay your soul bare in that magical room. The Bluebird is very intimate. 

AM:  Are you ready to debut the show yet?

BB:  I’m going to be working on this presentation for at least another month or two. It’s a big deal.  There’s a lot of dialogue. People may not realize that when you put on this kind of show there is a formality you have to follow. And when I take it to bigger stages there will be a little movie and slide show that runs along with it.

AM:  Is it like writing a script?

BB:  Sort of. When you write it yourself it’s so submitted to memory you don’t have to learn it like a script that somebody else wrote. It does have to have an order and a structure however. I'm sure each delivery will have wonderful spontaneous moments, too. That will be part of the fun.

AM:  Will you still play with a full band occasionally?

BB:  I played my last full band live show this past February 18th at Third & Lindsley. I won’t be doing a full band show again for a while.

AM:  Oh bummer.

BB: I'm not stopping- I'm just trying new things. I’ll still get up on stage and sing as a guest when I’m invited. My favorite Nashville band right now, along with The Blackfoot Gypsies, is Thee Rock N' Roll Residency. They play every Tuesday night at the Harp & Fiddle. They’ve created this incredible scene over there along with Brandy Goldsboro. The place is packed to the gills every Tuesday. They play all covers but they put their own spin on everything making it sound fresh. They always have guest signers like Robin Zander from Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Lzzy Hale, Hannah Firelight, to name a few, and I recently got up there and sang with them. I'm smitten and hooked so I will continue to do that when I can. I want to stay relevant in my musical community. I like the little pockets of scenes they have here in Nashville. I will always like singing with my friends, The Long Players, the brainchild of the brilliant Bill Lloyd. They take an album and recreate it with guest singers for the various tracks. The last show I did with them was The Rolling Stones ‘Some Girls.’ I sang ‘Beast of Burden’ and then I came back and did a favorite that isn’t on the album, ‘Paint It Black.’ We ripped through "Satisfaction", too! One of my highlights with The Long Players was The Bowie tribute at The Frist Museum. Singing "Moonage Daydream" and "Rebel Rebel" under a full moon is a memory I'll treasure forever. This was before Bowie's passing so the emotional connection is profound for me.

AM:  Any other projects you can talk about?

BB:  I just shot a sizzle reel for a show called ‘Routes of Rock’ here in Nashville. The format would take me all around the world to locations where all the great music was created and inspired. The show's creators want me going everywhere from Kashmir to Loch Ness.

AM:  Wow Bebe!

BB:  I’ll be the female Anthony Bourdain without the food. Ha! Each episode will feature a different artist or band. We’ll go to various locations where they would hang out- their haunts or childhood home, and I’ll talk to the people behind the scenes. It’s being submitted to networks as we speak. I also wrote a movie eight years ago that I never thought I could get made because when I wrote it I lived in NYC and it's set in the South. But now that I’m in Nashville, I can shoot it right here. Isn't fate interesting?
This movie is my baby. I can hardly wait to release the details, the cast and everything about it. It's going to have an epic soundtrack to boot. I'll keep you posted on both projects as we move forward. I have to say, this is the most exciting time of my artistic and spiritual life and growth!

AM:  You really are doing a lot!

BB:  I’m expanding my brand. I’m going beyond music and incorporating film, television, storytelling and healing into my message. I want to travel and do as much good work as I can until I go to wherever Prince, Bowie and Oscar Wilde are hanging out. I definitely want to go there.

To learn more about Bebe Buell visit her web site

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Time I Met Prince

I can’t believe it’s now been 35 years.  In many ways it seems like yesterday because the memory is still so strong.  Prince was not yet a household name at this point.  He had a few R&B hits and was getting rave reviews as a performer and recording artist but mainstream America hadn’t caught on yet.  April 4th, 1981…Dallas, Texas…SMU McFarlin Auditorium…PRINCE played the third to last show of his Dirty Mind Tour and I was there.

First a little history, I entered the musical world of Prince starting with his second album from 1979 that had the big hit; ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover.’  I LOVED the whole album.  This made me curious to get his first album ‘For You’, released one year earlier.  That album was off the hook as well.  At this time I knew I would like every Prince album the future would hold. 

Prince released his third album, ‘Dirty Mind’ in the second half of 1980.  I purchased it immediately and was totally blown away by this modern masterpiece.  It was funky, soulful and raunchy.  I’d never heard lyrics like this at that time.  However, it was the music that stood out over any racy lyrics.  For me the lyrics were fun. 

When news of the SMU concert became public I was among the first in line to get a pair for my cousin Lynette and myself.  You could actually afford a concert ticket and wait in line and get good seats, which is what I did.  I scored tenth row center seats to see Prince in a small theater!  

Back in those days I did many pencil drawings in a 9x12 sketch pad with rings at the top of each page.  One of the many drawings in the book was one of Prince, taken from his 1979 album cover.  I had been sketching and taking the results to concerts if I had a drawing of the performer.  

Occasionally I would be invited backstage to meet the star.  I also took to bringing along an album cover in case I could get it signed. So I took this simple sketch (and album) with me to SMU and I gave the drawing to a friendly looking Roadie and asked him if he would give it to Prince.  He kindly took the artwork wrapped in a PLASTIC sleeve and said, “Sure I will.” 

It was all very unpretentious and straight forward.  After giving the crew member the drawing I said to my cousin, “That’s it.  Prince will never want to meet me.”  He just seemed so untouchable already.  I was in for a wonderful surprise when a few minutes later the roadie came to my seat and told me Prince wanted to meet me after the show!  I was super excited!  My cousin and I were both ecstatic!  Then a sobering thud, only I could meet Prince.  No one else would be allowed.  Suddenly I was heartbroken for my cousin.  How NOT fun for her. 

Five minutes later the show started and out came a tiny creature wearing a military style jacket, a bandana on his head, in a G-string and leggings, wearing high heel boots and PLAYING a guitar.  One of the most dazzling and electrifying performances I have ever seen by anyone had just started.  Prince sang, danced and played for two hours that night to a very enthusiastic, near sold out crowd.  He earned his applause that night!  He was everything we wanted.  His performance was often erotic and at times down right blatantly sexual.  All of it done with swagger and confidence.  He didn’t rely on any kind of prop other than his guitar which became a phallic symbol throughout the whole show. Needless to say, everyone in the audience had a very satisfying evening based on the standing ovations and many curtain calls. 

I was told where to stand to wait for the Roadie to come out and get me now that the show was over.  My cousin was very gracious and told me not to feel guilty or worry about her not getting to meet Prince.  I’ll always be grateful for her attitude.  Within fifteen minutes the roadie appeared and told me to follow him.  I pleaded once more to allow my cousin to come with me.  I remember saying to him, “She’s very quiet and won’t say a word.” 

Glory Hallelujah, he told me they WOULD allow her to come back with me after all!  Now is an experience I had never had before this and have never had since then.  I had to go through three pre-interviews with road manager, publicist and personal assistant.  I was interrogated as to why I liked Prince and why I did a drawing of him and told I could not take a picture with Prince because Warner Brothers Records would not allow it. I was also instructed on the proper etiquette when Prince was in front of me like “don’t ask him anything personal”, or really anything. Just tell him how much you liked the show.

After all were satisfied that I wouldn’t embarrass them or make a fool of myself they took us to a tiny hallway by a dressing room door.  In a matter of moments the door opened and there stood the tiny creature. He was shirtless, still in his G-string, leggings, heels, minus the bandana and jacket.  I must admit he looked even smaller up close.

When we were introduced, Prince told me he really liked my drawing.  He then told me he could tell I was a gentle being based on the drawing and he wanted to meet whoever drew it.    I asked him if he would autograph my album and he was so humble and kind.  He then crouched on the floor and used his knees as a table to sign the album.  That was pretty much it.  Everyone involved seemed suddenly more relaxed.  We said our good-byes and thank you.  My cousin never said a word other than hello and a big smile. 

That was just the first of many Prince Performances I attended throughout the 80’s and 90’s.  Prince only got better and better each time I saw him in much larger stadium shows.  Every time I saw him on stage, television or the movies I always felt a kinship from our brief and sweet meeting. He was precious.  R.I.P. Sweet Prince...I look forward to the music you left behind in your famous vaults!