Meet Greg Dayton before “A Special Night of Blues”

323496_2845067166203_1905040512_o Meet Greg Dayton. An official “A Special Night of Blues” talented musician. This man has been bringing music along to the mountain top for years, and we are very lucky to have him! Learn a little bit more about who he is, and what he does before the show this Saturday! Purchase your tickets today at http://www.catskillmtn.org, we’ll see you there! ~Vicki 

What sparked your interest in getting involved with the production, growth and expansion of music into the area, specifically into the Orpheum? I’ve been coming up to the area since I was born because my grandparents had a house in Haines Falls and Twilight Park. I live in NYC now and grew up in the Boston area. I’ve been coming up here ever since then during the summers and sometime a little bit in the winter. I love the area and when I heard they were putting a new theater up, I was hopeful they’d be looking to doing some programming. I was approached by a few of the people involved, Friends of the Orpheum (FOTO) as well as Peter and Sarah, and they asked me to do some programming. I just started to reconnect with some people that I’ve worked with and I was really excited about the space. Immediately, right from the start, connected with Professor Louie and asked him if he would want to do something. I think the first thing we did was one of the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s benefits. We just did a few tunes and then went over to play at Last Chance afterwards. We started organizing some bigger concerts, New Riders of the Purple Sage with Professor Louie and The Crowmatix opening up, and then we did another Hurricane Irene benefit, which involved some folk artists including the Ronstadt Generations. We did the new Blues Hall of Fame ceremony a couple of years ago, which Louie suggested because he’s been working with those folks quite a bit and his band was the first band to actually be inducted in the NY chapter of the Blues Hall of Fame. So we started doing these gigs and they became successful, selling out every time, we try to keep doing them little by little. Do you still have your house in Haines Falls, Twilight Park? My parents do so I freeload on them, they’re troopers. Do you ever play Ninja Gigs or spontaneous, impromptu show around here? I, myself, have done a lot of stuff at Last Chance Cheese Shop and I’ve worked with David and Loren as they were getting music started there. So, I went over there and played a bunch of times on my own, I brought friends in and played. Also. sometimes I organized after-parties from the shows we do at the Orpheum. Then I do private parties and things like that. I also run shows down here in Manhattan at a place called the Triad, where I work with my own band and we work with inviting guests in the blues and funky realm, sometimes acoustic and some time electric there. You’re band is The Core, correct? Yes. It’s a little shameful, it’s been a few years that we’ve been playing together and we’ve done very little on the terms of promo because we’ve sort of risen up organically. Right now, we’re in the process of making an album, putting a website together and getting to together all of the things we are supposed to do. We’ve just been doing it for the love of it, getting the right people involved and using it as kind of an experimental ground.

So, you do all the promo for all the other events and then you have your band where you can go with the flow, that’s an interesting balance. Yes, it’s nice, it takes the pressure off, because I have worked for many years with my now ex-wife on the projects in the Latin soul realm of things. She promoted that stuff living in Spain, where she’s from. After I was involved in getting in on that project, I was really bent on getting back to the roots of what I really love which is the blues, funk and rock and roll. So I have been working with some of the same musicians putting together some projects where we are just really pulling out tunes that everyone wanted to play each time and each time, it would be different. So now we have a huge repertoire of things from writing more stuff for the band now that I want to come and put an album out. Some of it will be acoustic and some of it will be electric. It’s a lot of fun; we’re taking our time with it. What recent events have influenced your song composition? I tend to write mostly about relationships. I think the inspiration for my song writing process comes up as through just a line, a phrase or a chord progression usually on the guitar, and I’ll start to hum along to it and then come up with some ideas. I usually work a lot longer on the lyric writing verses the musical end of it. The musical end tends to come more quickly and then I’ll write something that I think people can relate to in terms of feelings, love and loss of love and life etc. What is a particular musical passage of your own that never fails to move you emotionally? One of the tunes that I’m going to be playing at the show is this tune called “Lonesome Road” which I wrote when I met my present girlfriend. I feel like it’s something that people can relate to, it’s something I’m pretty proud of. Hopefully Louie will accompany me on that, which will be fun too. How often will you all be getting together to rehearse before the show on the 28th? Good question, we’ve done these a bunch of times and we’ve talked about some of the orchestration with this one. Louie and Guy are people who are on the road and playing over 100 shows a year so rehearsal times, you have to be really efficient about it. Louie’s worked with the Greene Room Show Choir before, so they have a repertoire of things they have worked out with him and played at shows at the Orpheum before. Usually we get together and we can work things out really quickly because we understand the same musical ideas and we know how to keep it simple for the band so we know things that we’ll be able to fit in quickly. If it’s the blues you know everyone can always just play it. Is there an unspoken rule about encores that a general audience is not aware of? Do you ever feel incomplete without one? That’s an interesting thought, a lot of times the lack of an encore has to do with some kind of a time constraint on the venue, which wouldn’t be the case at this event. At the last show we did in the summer we had a show coming on right after us so we had to be off the stage quickly. So that’s an influence because usually musicians like to do an encore. We like to feel good, we love to play and if the audience is feeling good so when you get the play for an appreciate audience we always want to do more. Will there be an after show? That is not happening this year, The Tavern at Last Chance has another event going on that night and by the time we had organized this show, they already had something going on. They do have good music going on afterwards, but it’s not our after party. What’s your favorite restaurant in Tannersville? I have to say I’m a big fan of Last Chance and Maggies Krooked Cafe. I probably frequent them the most! Anything else you’d like to add about the show coming up? I think it’s going to be a real special night! It’s a real treat to have Guy Davis in the area and able to do the show with us. He’s worked a lot with Louie before. I think it’s going to be a really neat combination of artists. It’s going to be blues but there’s going to be other types of tunes too. Get your tickets fast!

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A Moment With Professor Louie

In preparation for the upcoming show “A Special Night of Blues & More,” I had a phone conversation with the accomplished Professor Louie from the Crowmatix. Along with the band, The Crowmatix, he will be on stage with Guy Davis, Greg Dayton and the Green Room Show Choir on Feb 28th at the Orpheum Film and Performing Arts Center. Get your tickets here. Professor Louie is a down to earth musician that gives everyone a feeling of having a genuine connection after being around him. It’s like Guy Davis says, “They don’t come better than him,” and I can truly say I agree with that statement! Enjoy. ~Vicki


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Lets talk about the Accordion for a minute, Can you explain your relationship with the accordion and how it originated?

 

Well, I’ve always had one around for years and years but I didn’t start playing it seriously until I met Garth Hudson, around 1985, the accordionist in The Band. I saw how he utilized it in rock and roll so I started to research it. I realized that a lot of early rock and roll bands, blues bands and bluegrass bands, for that matter, used the accordion because it is such a great portable instrument. Also, with the invention of synthesizers and different kinds of instruments you could play portably it was more of a real kind of instrument acoustically, there’s a lot to play. Then I met a lot of different great accordionists like Buckwheat Zydeco and C.J. Chenier. I started to utilize it for blues and rock and roll although a lot of people don’t know that Bill Haley, who had one of the first rock and roll big hits,  had an accordionist in his group. So, it’s been around for a long time. It’s one of the only instruments that is used in folk music throughout every country in the world. It’s a great instrument to play and you can play a lot of different styles on it, it’s a challenge and it looks really nice. It was used in America originally, in theaters in Vaudeville early in the 1900’s a lot because of the way it looked and its’ powerful sounds. To this day when they build them, and they still do build accordions, they look really nice and sound great, of course.

 

It’s looks heavy to me…it’s not?

 

There are different types. The one I have is not the heaviest out there. They do make ladies models. There are keys on the right side on the piano accordion and buttons on the left side. Some have more than others, the one I used the other night had 98 buttons. The one I have is medium weight, like if you wanted to play, we’d have to outfit you with a nice light ladies accordion. There’s heavier ones if you have to get powerful with a polka band or if you have to play with an orchestra, you’ll need something more powerful. You do get a workout when you play it and it does have some weight to it. The thing that’s nice about that is you can really feel the instrument when you’re playing it, so that really helps.

 

What keeps you in the area of Hurley near Woodstock, NY?

 

Hurley, NY, is right next to Kingston, maybe 5 miles south of Woodstock, N.Y.. We all (The Crowmatix) live close near by to Woodstock. I’ve been here for many years and it’s a really beautiful area, like Tannersville, there are beautiful mountains, lakes and streams. Also, in the Woodstock area there’s a very large recording community. I originally came up here to work on recordings and got a job producing bands and playing on records. It’s probably one of the largest recording communities in the country. So that’s one reason I’m here. The other reason is that it’s very close to the main thruway because we’re on the road a lot of time. It’s a good location for us, we can be in NYC in an hour and half or we can be anywhere we want without too much struggle. It’s an exceptionally creative area. There are a lot of artists, painters and writers, just having the Catskill Mountain Foundation and all the people up your way, 23arts, all the people up your way supporting visions in artists.

It’s really great and I think it’s going to keep growing as America keeps changing the landscape of business and different things. Certain areas like the mountains and little towns, I think the artists are going to move in, find a little peace and have a chance to create more. I think where you’re located is really great and every time I go up there now, there seems like something new is happening.

 

In what ways has playing with The Crowmatix worked for you more so than working on the road and being a part of other groups?

 

Well, first of all, The Crowmatix are on the road all the time, so we’re always traveling together and playing on the road. The thing about being on the road and playing with other groups is it’s always nice to have a tight knit group that knows all your music and has been together a long time. There’s no way to replace that by other musicians. You grow together and you perform every night  for different audiences and various experiences occur and the group intuitively knows what’s going to go on before it happens.

I’ve played many years with different people on the road, one of the problems with being a side musician, although it has its advantages, is that you’re not as personally involved with the music itself and you’re attitude can go astray. You’re just not as involved when you jump around from group to group. This way when people come to see us, the Crowmatix, Miss Marie, Frank Campbell, Gary Burke, John Platania or Josh Colow on guitar, I know they’re getting something special that no other group has because you can’t get it other than playing over and over together. Fortunately, there are a lot of groups like us that keep the same musicians and try to stay dedicated to each player and make sure each player is doing its best and try to read their mind before things happen. With Guy Davis, for the show coming up, I have played with Guy now for many years before and we are very much connected; he knows what I am going to do and I know what he is going to do. And drummer, Gary Burke, played on all of Guys records. John Platania, on the guitar, produced Guys records and Miss Marie has sung with Guy throughout the years. It’s a nice family and it’s nice to be traveling and playing shows together.

 

How did you get introduced to Greg Dayton?

 

I have to say, I’ve known Greg for many years. Greg is a great supporter of the music up in Tannersville. We started off playing a few shows that were put together by a fellow who used to, and still does, put shows together and called them BLUES BUFFET, a chef by the name of Johnny CIAO. He would have these shows where he would combine maybe 4 or 5 acts together so that people would have a whole afternoon of music and that’s how I met Greg. Greg called me up maybe 5 or 6 years ago, he lives in NY, and had this theater that he was putting shows on about once a month and he had asked me and Marie to come down and be guests. We became pretty close friends. He said to me that the Orpheum Theater started having entertainment and he asked me if I would be interested putting a show on. I think we might have been one of the first groups to play music there. Since then, we’ve been part of Greg’s shows up in Tannersville area and we always like playing with him and he comes up to play with us also. That’s how our relationship has been growing, so this show coming up might be the 5th or 6th show we have been involved with him. The show coming up is really nice because everyone knows each other and we’ve performed together a few times, so we have a very strong relationship. Besides being a good acoustic guitar player and singer of course, he’s also very smart knows the business and helps out a lot of the business around.

 

How did you link up with the Green Room Show Choir?

 

One thing I really like doing is wherever we go play, whether it be Chicago, Arizona, Tucson, it’s nice to always try and get involved with the community there. At one point, I asked Greg if there were any musicians, choirs or orchestras in the area that would be interested in being a part of a show with us and get the community involved. Greg was the one who introduced me to Linda Nichols and we’ve gotten along great over the past few years. They’re very good, they do their homework and they know our material. So whenever we come into Tannersville it’s always nice to have them involved in our shows. It’s like when we go to Buffalo, maybe we’ll use a horn section from there or if we go to Phoenix I could use some musicians who live out there. It’s always gives a nice community spirit  doing this, to come in once and play. We come back to areas usually once a year to play or  every couple years, so we get to be friends with everybody.  One of the most valued parts of being a traveling musician, is learning and meeting all the new people, becoming friends with them and gathering nice relationships.

 

I’m sure you’ve played at the Ramble before, right?

 

I produced and played with the different individual players in The Band from 1985 to the year 2000.  That room, off of Levon Helms house, was our recording studio, one of the main studios we used.  I probably produced maybe 100 songs by The Band and played on, or sang on, or engineered them. That room was The Bands’ main place to hang out and play, so we used to go there every single day maybe from about noon until about 2 or 3 in the morning, 12-14 hours a day and just work out songs constantly. That’s what we used that room for more than anything, that’s when I was involved.  Levon Helm and I traveled the world together. We traveled across the US maybe 3 or 4 times and often we would split rooms together, there’s always safety in numbers.  Levon, myself and Miss Marie  went to Nashville together  a few times to do some shows. He was also in The Crowmatix.  We made a record together with The Crowmatix, so we were good friends. He had a really nice room there,  great sounding.  Besides The Band records, I made other recordings there and tried to use the room as much as possible.

 

And how did you take care of yourself on the road when you were traveling with The Band?

 

Well that’s a good question Vicki, maybe you should start coming with us to find out!  I’ll tell you one thing you really should do when you’re on the road.  You should treat yourself even better than when you’re at home.  Go to better restaurants, stay in better hotels, even if it costs a few more dollars, and always try to take care of yourself as much as possible. Whenever you have the opportunity to eat well, always do it because there will come a point where that won’t exist.  You may have to skip a few meals or the hours of sleeping can get strange, especially if you’re jumping time zones a lot.  Sleep as much as you can. Try not to party too hard, that can be a temptation out there.  Every once and a while it’s good to join in with the local parties, but remember to still get the best meal you can and stop at the better restaurant … that’s the real trick. If you’re in Europe for instance, the times zones can change a lot.  It becomes very strange and you can become sleep deprived.  Or, say if we’re flying to CA and we have to play a show that night, all of a sudden there’s 3 hour difference. You have to try and catch as much sleep when you can and don’t get too stressed out. You have to be flexible because people have different ways of doing things, certain promoters might change how you think things should go.  Just relax.  If I know anything, I know that.

 

I asked Maggie Landis from Maggies Krooked Café if she’d like to ask you anything and her question for you is: How do friends like Owen, Lucy and Eldad play a part in your life on the mountain top?

 

Oh wow, that’s really something. Owen and Lucy are old friends. They live and work at the base of the mountain in Palenville. They are talented and artistic people. Years ago, they used to help with posters or whatever kind of graphics we needed when there weren’t a lot of people doing graphic artwork and before computers took over. They were always very fair in trying to make things happen.  Owen had a recording studio attached to their graphic studio and we used to do a little bit of recording up there too.  I still see Owen once in a while on Sunday mornings where he works at Radio Woodstock, WDST, Doug Grunther’s show.  Owen is his engineer. I see him once or twice a year when we do a show on WDST.  Lucy still helps us out. We are getting ready to put out a new CD out and she helps get together some information for us.  And Eldad, he always repaired equipment for us.  So when we first moved up here back in ’85, these were some of the first people we’d go to for help.  Tell Maggie thanks for the question!

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Would you like to add anything about the show?


The nice thing about the show coming up is that everybody knows each other, has worked and traveled extensively together,  with Guy Davis, I’ve performed many places around the world with him. There’s a great feeling of community spirit with Greg Dayton and the Green Room Show Choir playing with the Crowmatix.  This will be one of the best musical shows around.

A Conversation with Guy Davis, Bluesman

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Having the chance to interview Guy Davis opened my eyes to a talented, soulful man with tales of experience and wisdom. He is a bluesman, musician, composer, actor, director and writer that will be performing on the Orpheum Stage, Tannersville, NY,  this February, the 28th with Professor Louie and the Cromatix, Greg Dayton and the Greene Room Show Choir. Guys’ stories interweave the arts, music, and life experiences. Get to know him before the show to add additional magic to” A Special Night of Blues.” -Vicki 

Get your tickets here: A Special Night Of Blues 

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Growing up in the influential environment you did as a son of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, I can imagine that they must have instilled many morals at a young age. What was an early childhood lesson you learned from them?

Well I’ll tell ya, I’m sure as early childhood I used to fake taking baths, splash my feet in water or something like that. I used to try and not take the garbage out if I could help it. But I think one important childhood lesson I learned was from my father. It’s kind of a two-part lesson. There was a store near our house called Rayfields, and my dad would take me by it and he would buy the newspaper. As I got a tiny bit older, he would send me to the store to grab him the newspaper or some knickknack. One time, I came back with a nickel too much change for some small purchase. A nickel too much. To me a nickel, that was a candy bar, or something fun. But when my dad found out I had that nickel he insisted that I go back to the store and give it to a man who was named Marshall at the counter. A man could lose his job by short changing the cash register, even by that much. Money was an esoteric concept for me, I just knew I could trade it for candy. But I did go take that money back. There was one time, that I did something I wish I hadn’t done. In the process of my dad having me with him when he would go buy the paper, he’d put the money in my hand and Marshall would hand me the newspaper. And then, one day he was going to leave a quarter on the kitchen counter. He told me that when I came home from school I was supposed to take that quarter and go get him a paper. So I accomplished what he asked. I don’t know if was the next day or the day after, I just saw a quarter sitting on the kitchen counter, but he hadn’t told me anything about getting the newspaper. I took that quarter and bought candy. I was not listening to the voice inside me that was clearly telling me I was supposed to get the paper.   When dad found out, he gave me this really disappointed look. And so that was a lesson in growing up, that you have to be straightforward about things, you have to have an understanding and be honorable. When you make a commitment you have to follow through with it. There was two lessons, one was getting too much change back, and I came through that ok, and the other I knew what I was supposed to do and got a serious look of disapproval and they reprimanded me.

How about a recent lesson you’ve learned as a big kid (adult) ?

I don’t know if it’s a lesson or if it’s just seeing myself through a different eye. I remember that, in our family we didn’t talk a lot about the entertainment industry, though it was there. And as an adult, I used to not know if my dad was going to be on some show on television or some theater piece, unless I asked him because all of what we talked about was usually family stuff. Same with my my mom. My dad used to find out what I did only after asking me, because I didn’t share  lot of what I did. And recently, my son, who has a band here in NYC and is in school studying film told me that he was getting harmonica lessons. This was about 4 or so months ago and I was shocked because I, amongst other things, am a harmonica player. I had been offering lessons to him forever. I wanted to show him this, show him that, anything. He had been a little blasé about being interested. So I was shocked to hear he was getting harp lessons. So then, just a few nights ago, I went down to see him and his band down in Greenwich Village. He’s playing the harp and lets just say he’s being very creative in finding what notes to play in certain pieces, but he could still use technique.  I re-offered him some lessons and the other day he took a lesson from me, and it was a real short lesson, but his eyes really opened up as if he was just hearing this stuff for the first time. And it was stuff I’ve showed him before, but it was like it was for the first time because he was really motivated this time. Now that he’s performing, he’s looking to do better, he’s looking to get feedback from his audience and band mates. So that he’s really looking for something, he seems motivated in learning from me. I think I was like that with my dad, so I guess the lesson I’m learning is patterns repeats themselves.

Lets talk about the show, you’re collaborating with a lot of talented musicians including Professor Louie and the Cromatix, Greg Dayton  and even local talent from the Green Room Show Choir. Can you shed some light on how this type of performance comes together?

People like Professor Louie, they don’t come better than him. He’s a musician from Woodstock and he actually produced some of the last albums by The Band. He plays keyboard with me in my group and occasionally I open for him in his group. We have all kinds of guys that meet each other on the road, and when we get together, If I’m playing a part of his band, or he with mine, it’s just about good music. The blues is what I do, that’s my specialty, but we definitely stray across the borders. We will have a little bit of old school rock and roll, we have some folk music, ragtime. I just anticipate having fun on stage and sharing it with people.

Will there be some African American Folklore weaved into this?

In the sense that, no matter where I perform, I’m always telling stories so that qualifies as African American Folklore. I don’t know that it’s necessarily going to be very formal, but I’ve got stories, my god have I got stories. Some of the stories I tell involve more than just one person. There was this great harmonica player, Sonny Terry. He was a blues musician, a harmonica player from back in the 30’s and primarily people heard of him playing in North Carolina. He became known by the larger world, by that I mean, the white world, Broadway specifically, back in 1947. There was a musical called Finian’s Rainbow and it was the late, great Pete Seeger, the folk musician, who called up the producers at Finian’s Rainbow and said that they needed to listen to Sonny Terry to see if they could write him into the show. And they did because he was that good. It’s stories like that. I got that story with more details to it and I play in Sonny Terry’s style. When I introduce the song “Did You See My Baby,” I’ll often tell the story and there’s some hilarious stuff involved.

The Catskills have recently received a lot of exposure and publicity on becoming an incubator for the arts and music. Do you have any advice for the youth of the area growing up during this transitional time?

I have advice on two different levels. One, if you’re a musician, steal everything you hear. Steal it. And then, once you master it, then it becomes your own, that’s if you’re playing. But if you are in the audience, there’s something that happens on stage when you see a musical artist in particular, or a storyteller perhaps. There’s a kind of magic that happens because I recall being that kid when I was 8 years old just sitting in the front of an auditorium looking on stage at somebody with a guitar, just some wood with some metal strings on it. And, the experience I had was magic. It was magic. Have you heard of Gestalt? The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. That’s what can happen to a person, or a young person, when they see music, art, see show business, hear stories for the first time something transformative can happen. So I say to young people, be prepared for the unexpected.

Anything you’d like to share that you’re working on or about the upcoming show?

I will say that I have been writing new songs, so new my own band members such as Professor Louie haven’t even heard them yet. I’ve been sending them some new things but I have actually been writing so much they haven’t gotten them all yet. A lot of what people hear at the show will be stuff I’ve been doing but a lot some of what they hear will be brand new. Prepare to enjoy.