Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here
Gillard; I’m grateful for the odd things that happen along the way in music life.
I’ve held lots of day jobs along the way, from being a paperboy, to working in copy stores, food server, working the door at shows, court reporter (tape recording and filming depositions, not stenography), subpoena server (boy, that was fun), building frames in a frame shop, becoming the warehouse manager of said frame shop chain, teaching music to kids at schools of rock, etc.
But the unexpected things that happen in music are part of what makes it worth it.
I’ll try to tie this theme in to tales of some of the autographs I’ve gotten from people I’ve met. I came across my folder of autographed items, and realized almost every person is deceased now. Except for Lonnie Mack, Cleveland’s Big Chuck and Hoolihan, Ian McLagan and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, looks like everyone there is no longer with us. Betty Carter, Bo Diddley and Les Paul are the meetings I didn’t write about below, but I mention several gone legends and the experience with them, together with some other odd happenings.
The wild card in the autograph bunch would be Bozo the Clown. No telling who played him in Northern Ohio in 1971, or if they’re alive. Screw it, his was just a pre-signed photo anyway. Cheapskate clown franchise …
So, I will try to list things here.
My oldest brother Russ lived in Flint, Mich., and we went up to see him in 1975. I distinctly remember that trip and hearing Ringo’s song “Goodnight Vienna” on the radio and loving it. We went to a play downtown starring Paul Lynde and Alice Ghostley, and I stood in line to meet him afterward. I dug watching Hollywood Squares. Alice was there as well, and she was extremely nice and smiley when we met. I was only eight, so don’t remember a whole lot, but I think I remember Paul reeking of booze. I mean, like, boooooze. Heavy duty. He was tired and feigned a friendliness, but one could tell he wanted to get the hell outta there. I got a picture taken with him, and he was gracious enough. At first just Alice turned a whiter shade of pale. But I was paler. Naturally, I mean. I’m pretty pale.
My friend Larry booked the best acts at a Cleveland club. Got to meet John Entwistle once after a show he did with his own band in the late ’80s. I brought a xeroxed pic of the Who plus my Magic Bus LP for him to sign. He really was quiet. But he had a girl on his lap and was doing some blow, so he was enjoying his after-show. He was a nice guy.
Larry let me come upstairs again after an Alex Chilton show on his Feudalist Tarts tour. He wasn’t cottoning to the growing Big Star come-latelys yet, but begrudgingly signed my cover of Big Star’s Third LP. I think he said “Oh, Big Star again, Sheesh. Well, OK.” Oddly, I was lucky enough to open for him and his trio with my solo band in 2005. I didn’t bring up that I’d met him in ’87, but he was really nice and even told me I had good songs. His solo live act was always under appreciated, but he really did great versions of “Rock With You” and “Volare” along with his own songs, and what a gifted guitar player he was, too.
Lou Reed played an afternoon “Coffee Break Concert” at Cleveland’s old Agora right before it burned down on his New Sensations record. I’d had The Blue Mask LP and was already a huge Robert Quine fan. John Petkovic and I, along with other pals, skipped classes to go. After the show, Lou was signing records across town at this great store, Record Revolution on Coventry. There was a long, long line, but I got a current poster (with the “red joystick”) and waited in the queue. Directly in front of me was a woman holding a pet skunk. I overheard her say, “I just want Lou to pet my skunk before he dies, He’s dying. Don’t worry, he’s de-scented.”
We get to the counter where Lou is.
“Hi Lou. I love you. Would you please pet my sku-”
“But he’s de-sce-”
“Naw. No way.”
She left, and I tried to engage him by complimenting his amazing band, and that I loved Quine and Fernando Saunders, but that was the exact wrong thing to say! He did sign the poster, though.
In the late days of Death Of Samantha, we were label-less, and hooked up with some people associated with Curb Records. One of the guys talking with us about a possible deal while we recorded our new record was the son of a fellow in Wayne Newton’s management. In 1990, Wayne came to The Front Row, an in-the-round venue near Route 271, and we all got to go to the show. It was entertaining, but there was serious talk of us doing a 12-inch with Wayne, wherein we would do a cover of “Satellite Of Love.” We would back him up, and he would sing. I’m sad that never came to fruition, but if it had, it would have predated the “ironic” William Shatner-type collabs by many years.
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood toured in 1995, with none other than Don Randi as bandleader. I made sure I saw this show in Cleveland. I stood in the autograph line, and it was mostly filled with ‘doods’ holding Playboys for her to sign. But Lee was at the table with her, too.
They both signed my Rhino Nancy & Lee cassette cover, and I had something else I wanted Lee to sign. Dave Swanson had found a Lee Hazlewood songbook at an antique store and given it to me as a gift. I open it up to “Some Velvet Morning” and ask if he would sign it. He says “Sure! What’s your name?” “Doug.” He takes a sharpie and writes in huge cursive, “Dear Doug, Sorry I fucked up your lead sheet. Lee Hazlewood.” The book is in storage out of state, but it’s one of the best things ever. And thanks, Dave Swanson!
Cut to 2011. Bambi Kino is playing in Los Angeles, and our bassist Erik had relatives in L.A. He married the amazing AJ Lambert, who is also Nancy Sinatra’s daughter. Those were the relatives in L.A. We all flew from NYC and needed to rehearse for this gig. Word comes down that we can actually rehearse at Nancy’s house in Beverly Hills. So we do. An amazing place with such incredible memorabilia on the walls: a Jerry Lewis autograph, a personal message from Elvis, etc., and the guest bathroom had a beautifully painted portrait of Nancy, which I see she now uses as her Twitter avatar! We get our acoustics out and go by the pool.
AJ tells us that Grandma wants to come over and hear the music. Erik says, “Great! She’s one of my favorite people.” Grandma is Nancy Barbato, Frank’s first wife, and Nancy’s mom. She was a very sharp, active 93. Soon as she gets there, she and Nancy Jr. emerge from the house with a camcorder to tape us. We couldn’t believe we were singing in front of the Sinatra women. That’s a tall order. After Erik sings “Ain’t She Sweet,” Nancy Sr. says, “Oh, I just love that song. Frank used to play ukulele and sing that to me when we were courting.” It was hard to go on with the rest of our set after that news, but we did, and gained new fans in the Nancys in the process! Nancy has since moved from that house, and continues her singing career along with curating and hosting the Siriusly Sinatra channel on Sirius/XM.
Other random moments I’m thankful for:
• Death Of Samantha playing shows hosted by The Ghoul, the unofficial heir to the Ernie Anderson/Ghoulardi throne in Cleveland horror host television.
• Getting to back up Ronnie Spector in her band for one show a few years ago.
• The Strokes repaying GBV for taking them out on their first club tours by having us in their video and playing a whole Family Feud game with them. (Technically, we won!)
• GBV being on the Flying Nun label for one record and getting to be in their offices and later Chris Knox having a bash for us at his house in Auckland.
• Getting to meet amazing people both in, and through, Nada Surf, GBV and more, and hearing their incredible stories. Ian Laughton is one of these people.
• Thankful for all the great people I’ve had the pleasure to work with in all the bands and projects through the years. It’s too vast to even go into. And most importantly, for all the fans and supporters of music, both recorded and live.
More photos after the jump.