Veteran Multitalented Stephen A Love: Rock & Roll Gumbo
Stephen A Love talks about Ricky Nelson, Mayall, Cipollina, and Rock n’ Roll world
Stephen A. Love born on May 19, 1950 in Crawfordsville, Indiana, He is a professional musician, lead singer, songwriter, producer, entertainment business promoter, CEO of the James Allen Promotions and Blue Jeans Music BMI.
Stephen A. Love’s musical achievements have included the industry’s highest awards including RIAA certification, gold and multi platinum records for Garden Party with Ricky Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band.
“I miss the quality of the music… that is not an egotistical statement! Lots of the current musicians do not seem to hold themselves to a ‘higher level’ of expertise in playing or singing.”
The popular record sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and ranked number one on Billboard Adult contemporary and number six on the industries Billboard chart. Love also performed at the biggest concert of the year in 1977 with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Grateful Dead, and the Marshall Tucker Band in Englishtown, New Jersey. More than 125,000 people were in attendance. High profile concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Hyde Park, London, Madison Square Garden in New York, and Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia, were enjoyed by many fans. He has appeared on many television shows in USA and European television. Animal Planet has used his music regularly, the last few years. His songs have played in over 60 countries worldwide.
Stephen A Love’s 2014 release, brings to our collective ears three original songs, “Mr. Love”, “Dead End Street”, “Its Rockabilly Music We Love” from the 2015 new album release “THINGS GET A BIT TWISTED” all self-penned over the last 35 years of his successful career in the entertainment business. The direction of these new works is richly organic “Blues Rock” and is heavily influenced by his musical roots of early R&B and the “Rock n Roll” phenomina! Stephen A Love associates have included Rick Nelson, George Harrison of the Beatles, Randy Meisner of the Eagles, John Mayall, John Cipollina, Joe Cocker, the Allman Brothers Band, Huey Lewis and the News, Buddy Cage, Tom Brumley, Spencer Dryden, Carl Sagan, Joey Covington of Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Pure Prairie League, Kingsman Bob Johnston, Patrick Shanahan, Maurice “Reece” Anderson, James Allen, Rhonnie Scheuerman, Richie Walker, Richard Bowden, and Greg Attaway.
What were the reasons that you started the Folk/Rock experiments?
When I arrived in Los Angeles early 1970 with Randy Meisner, the music from the 60’s was getting stale and bland in lots of our young eyes! An electric guitar revolution was coming with excitement and unknown territory. This was to be devoured at every opportunity, digested mentally and pursued with extreme vigor and lust is the best analogy I can share! The “Beatles” led the way in those days using new instruments such as the Fender “Stratocaster” which was emerging in front of the “Telecaster” which was mostly treated as a country instrument previously. The electrified 12 string by Richenbacker with compression was outrageous, the new ‘Strat” sound created by using various personal degrees of distortion was induced by making the glass tubes ring and sing! This was the technical part of that revolution, but it also led to new approaches in song writing! This was the “bigger apple” to pick and cultivate the orchard. The “song writing door” was wide open and we all used it as a vehicle to get where we dreamed of being. Some made it, some did not. Being involved in the Folk/Rock revolution from its inception was a gift I cherish to this day! Being in the right place at the right time did not hurt but the “cream always rises to the top” as my promotional manager kept telling me!
What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll culture?
I learned very early there were no limits to personal creativity, expression and performing in a Rock n Roll environment. Closing my eyes while playing my guitar was instrumental in developing this process of freedom. It forces the mind to work differently from reading sheet music. This is not meant to criticize or take anything away from the millions of wonderful musicians who perform their magic in their way.
I also learned that if you really want something to be yours, you have to love your quest honestly, pursue your dreams with a unblended perseverance, be open to criticism and learning from others who are more experienced and just plain better than you at that time. Great question!
How do you describe Stephen A. Love sound and songbook?
The “Stephen A Love” sound and songbook contains over 200 songs and is a mixture of rock n roll, soul, blues and of course country-rock. In the 1970’s I published mostly country-rock which was popular when I was signed to major labels such as Decca, MCA and Columbia. I developed my sound and songbook as we all did by absorbing the melodies, harmonics and words of those who came before us, setting up a system of goals and measurements to be reached with conviction and experience. “Ricky Nelson” was my idol growing up and influenced me for at least a quarter of a century with his “Rockabilly” and being in his “Stone Canyon Band” was my path to begin with. My early years were surrounded by traditional county music in Indiana. When we moved to Pennsylvania I discovered “Soul” music and “Doo Wap” at the age of 14 years. This led to BB King, Jr. Walker & All Stars, Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Little Anthony and the Imperials, etc. My sound and soundbook are at this level again as It has not been explored and or exploited to its fullest by any means.
What characterize’s your music philosophy?
Experience every musical style you can, play every instrument that induces adrenaline in your being and brings happiness, travel everywhere possible so you can absorb our worlds music “first hand” from the players or source that inspires you into action! Get out on the road!! Never hesitate about your talent, never look back and learn, learn learn all the way to your last breath!
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?
Meeting my idol “Ricky Nelson” at 20 years old was a big and important experience for me! I never considered I would be on stage with him growing up, watching him on Ozzie & Harriet perform his dream and then taking part in his and mine! The combination of three very strong lead vocalists was the singing highlight of my life. We excelled to a superior level and the “Eagles” saw this and jumped on it! “Roger Mcguinn” and his “Byrds” was another highlight and unexpected again. I admired their sound ten years before as it was the 12 string singing and gorgeous harmonies played out on lots Bob Dylan’s lyrics. I have been very lucky also. The electrified “Bluegrass” of the “New Riders of the Purple Sage” was the fastest, most precise music I have ever enjoyed on stage. It was about being an instrumentalist at the top of your game!
What is the best advice ever given you?
I auditioned with “John Mayall” after leaving the “Stone Canyon Band” in 1973 being 23 years young. It was in his “Laural Canyon” villa with just him and me in his living room. John on keyboards of course and me on electric guitar. We played about an hour then he said to me…. Steve… “You just not have lived long enough to have the blues in you” I was devastated but he was right on! I could play all the notes, but the soul was not developed enough as he said most honestly. I had not learned to close my eyes and play yet. Besides I also was playing bass guitar very well on recordings and the road. My guitar playing lacked the internal consciousness you must have to play the “Blues” He did let me into his “Brain Damage Club” and I would meet star after star in those drunken events. George Harrison, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart and many others. He was very instrumental in my “Blues” awareness.
This was the best advice anyone had ever given me. I saw him last year (2014) at the “Stanhope House” in northern New Jersey and he was 80 years young! I spoke with him after the show and thanked him for that day 41 years ago and his inspirational advice. Sadly the villa burned down with all the memories long ago but I have lots stories and some reel to reel tapes of him being bad!
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
- The “Royal Albert Hall” in London is the best gig anyone will every play in a lifetime. I did once with “Rick Nelson” when our smash hit “Garden Party” was number one! It had sold 8 million copies by that time and it was a phenomenal experience to be treasured. I almost missed the performance because I was at Trident studio’s outside London listening to the very first “Eagles” album all afternoon with Glyn John and the boys. I am the first person to ever hear that album played for me that day. I knew it was a hit! They were on their way!
- Madison Square Garden in October 1971 is where the whole sequence of events inspiring “Rick Nelson” to write the song and our arrangement made it happen in the studio. 25,000 people is a great audience!
- 125,000 souls strong at Englishtown New Jersey in the fall of 1977 was the biggest concert I ever played, the largest “Greatful Dead” concert ever played, grandest concert my friend, Toy Caldwell and the “Marshall Tucker Band” every played in addition. The clapping was like thunder! Hard to forget a single second of that fun!
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss the quality of the music… that is not an egotistical statement! Lots of the current musicians do not seem to hold themselves to a “higher level” of expertise in playing or singing. They may think they do…They only go through the motions…The lunacy of Kayne West is an example… where’s the talent??? He does not sing… he talks his rap…so what??? So does my parrot!! Good for him, but I am unimpressed from a talent base existence. Most youngsters do not know the difference and that’s because that’s all they know!! They are not exposed to melodies that are musical from conception to promotion… There are a few good singers but the likes of “Whitney Houston’s caliber has passed in my experience and opinion. Emulations of talent are everywhere, but “Super Stars” have vanished. The current “Music business” is propped up to look like it used to be, but it’s a huge farce and the companies are losing their ass daily. The only way they can survive is by gathering up more and more media companies into a major corporation to offset massive losses. It’s a business of “write off” losses now. It’s disheartening but part of the so called progress of life….”All Things Must Pass” George’s Harrison’s wisdom still rings in my ears. He was very wise!
“Experience every musical style you can, play every instrument that induces adrenaline in your being and brings happiness, travel everywhere possible so you can absorb our worlds music ‘first hand’ from the players or scource that inspires you into action! Get out on the road!! Never hesitate about your talent, never look back and learn, learn learn all the way to your last breath!”
Have the blues in me at 23… Ha! That’s a very tough question Michael! The independent musician and or independent music business is already on its way! That would have been every musicians wish and dream in the 1970’s. With a magic wand, I would accelerate that movement as quickly as possible so musicians can pay their bills, eat and enjoy their playing without external pressures of being ripped off. Paying for talent has never been so cheap as it is now. One million plays on Sirius pays $40.00 USD. What a racket! That will uninspired an aspiring young musicians pride and fulfillment as a craft in the future. Don’t give up your day job they used to say….
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with R&B / Rock n Roll and continue to Country and Folk?
Human beings evolving while expressing themselves in joy, pain and sorrow. I am sure you wanted something deeper… I think social cultures collide and either interlock and go forward with a new generation of listeners or the music fades and disappears as the players do the same. A perfect example is traditional country. Blake Shelton got slammed for his George Jones remark, but he is correct from an overall perspective of music‘s long and winding road. I can imagine in the future this reality on an interplanetary scale where the universe plays billions of harmonious tones inter- connecting for infinity. Think about it! I will stop…
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?
I laugh at the current country music business because all they play is conceptually country-rock from the seventies proclaiming its new music…. It’s not! There is no room to maneuver the harmonics or the words in any other ways. It’s a mathematical equation that has an infinite termination point. All the different ways were exploited 40 years ago. It may be packaged up differently for new listeners and touted as “their music”. People buy into what is presented to them. The failures are at the highest level of the business, not the listeners. The “new country” will end its existence much faster than “traditional country” because of the ingénues it portrays.
I am most touched by losing old friends… Joe Cocker would be an example. I helped him through a very tough time. He always remembered and offered me $1500.00 a week to be in his band which I turned down! Ha!
The list is a way too long and it is painful to see them go… So be it! It’s not my plan…
Which memory from John Mayall, John Cipollina, Joe Cocker, and Allman Brothers makes you smile?
John Mayall: Already answered that one except for when he jumped off his villas roof and missed the swimming pool breaking his leg in six places. I have a photo somewhere. I mean nothing bad about him. He was very generous to me. Life is a carnival! It was funny for everyone but him in the Brain Damage Club!
John Cipolinna: John was a very unique individual! He still is in his own time shall we say…His guitar playing was unique…His rig had multiple speakers and treble horns! His spoken word was honest and always fun and laughable. He was fun on tour… He laughed and coughed at the same time…He was always a little bit out of tune because of his wildness on stage…He slept in a coffin at home knowing one day he would not wake up. Fond memories…can’t ask for more than that in a lifetime!
Joe Cocker: I came home after a long tour with NRPS about 1976 and there was person sleeping on my couch snoring… Every musician wants privacy for a few days to get into being human again and recharge. I went to the guest house and asked Allen Kemp from the “Stone Canyon Band” who was on my couch? He said… “That’s Joe Cocker” man! I said “I don’t care who it is…get him out of here…I just got off six weeks on the road”
Then I settled down remembering my drinking days, crashing sports cars, motorcycles, everything else that goes with it, etc. I let him sleep for two days then he asked if he could hang out awhile and I said yes. We became friends in that two weeks. His mangers did not know where he was so it was good time for him to relax and recuperate.
Full circle came in 1984 when I crashed my Porsche after “eleven double” gin and tonics on my birthday up in Santa Ynez valley above Santa Barbara where “Michael Jackson” built his entourage. I had a gig that night and a massive hangover. He came to the gig and offered condolences on my Porsche, sang some songs with me and returned the favor I had done years earlier. What comes around… goes around! Be nice to people!
Allman Brothers Band: The great promoter John Scher sent me to Sarasota Florida in 1982 to join the band as bass player. I really hard a hard time getting along with Dicky Betts because of his drinking. Everyone knows this now as its common knowledge, but it was not then. Butch Trucks, Dicky and I went golfing one day and Butch whispered to me on the 18thtee to not beat Dicky or I will never stay in the band… I had not golfed in eighteen years and he played all the time…We had an even score at that point and I considered throwing the game for a moment… Then I got angry at the maneuvering and put a very long drive out on the fairway. I proceeded to beat him on that hole and we went back to his house and I picked up one of his axes and showed him I kick ass on guitar also! That was the last straw for him… Lifes too short for that BS!!! Great music always comes from all the players contributing towards a common goal and that is the audience appreciation for all the talents rolled into one! Enough with the alcoholics and self-destructing behaviors!
What is the relationship of Folk Roots/Country Rock movements to the racial and socio-cultural implications?
Not sure on this one…sorry! That’s my political stance! “I learned very early there were no limits to personal creativity, expression and performing in a Rock n Roll environment. Closing my eyes while playing my guitar was instrumental in developing this process of freedom.”
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
1971: London, England to be the first person to hear the first “Eagles” album at Trident Studio’s, thanks to Randy Meisner and play through Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin’s recording amplifier, then back to limousine and the “ROYAL ALBERT HALL” for the concert of a lifetime!
Easiest question of all Michael!
Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to answer and share some memories, recall them so clearly in my mind! When the new “Blues-Rock album “THINGS GET A BIT TWISTED” is complete I will send you a bunch of CD’s and posters to share with your fans and friends!
– Posted by Michalis Limnios Blues @ Greece [Blues GR] – Photographs courtesy of Stephen A Love archive / All Rights Reserved