Rudy Sarzo

ROCK AND ROLL FANTASY CAMP REVISITED!

Photos And Text By Anne M. Raso

The first Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp back at New York’s Gibson Studios (adjacent to the world-famous Record Plant in Midtown West) on January ’11 was so great that the MAC WIRE had to return for another visit. We were sad to see that two of our favorite instructors–Mark Farner and Sandy Gennaro–were on summer tours and could not return but we made sure to hang with the world-famous bassist extraordinaire and super camp counselor Rudy Sarzo. The poor guy just couldn’t get rid of us. We sat in on his master class, his band’s performance with guest star Leslie West and even dinner on Saturday night. All the counselors and campers practiced on Friday and Saturday (August 13th and 14th) in anticipation of individual band performances and a jam with the likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Sly & The Family Stone (unforttunately without Sly) and Tommy James (on Sunday, August 15th at Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, site of the original Woodstock Festival which was celebrating its 42nd anniversary). Each camp band was assigned three classic rock songs to play on the big night. Other fabulous instructors this time around included Kip Winger, Mark Hudson, Kasim Sultan, David Rosenthal from Billy Joel’s band and Joe Stefko of Turtles fame.

     Photos on this page include Rudy’s wonderful master bass class (featuring four bassists, two drummers and lots of stories about playing on the Blizzard Of Oz tour and Paul McCartney’s work that he suggested listening to). It still sticks in our heads that Rudy told his master bass class students that Paul McCartney’s best bass work was on George Harrison-penned songs and cited “Something” as possibly Macca’s best work on his instrument. Rudy and his official campers, who were forced to change their name from Brown Acid to Mudslide after objections from a musician who played in Jimi Hendrix’s band at Woodstock (this unnamed guy said that brown acid really caused a lot of big problems at the festival), but Rudy told us with a smile, “I actually wanted to change the name of the group to Winger.” (That’s sort of an inside joke since Kip Winger was another one of the excellent counselors at this particular version of R&R Fantasy Camp.) The three songs Mudslide were practicing for the big Sunday night show were “Black Magic Woman, “Hey Joe” and “Woodstock” (perfect choices given the venue of the concert)!

     The highlight of Saturday–the day we visited–was undoubtedly Leslie West coming in with his statuesque wife Jenni (who were actually married on the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts stage two years ago) to jam and so soon after his recent surgery. He was in great spirits, telling jokes and really wailing and playing his best licks with the campers. His pals, Fred Norris from the Howard Stern Show and author May Pang were there, to cheer on both West and the campers, and the legendary axeman probably signed about 75 pieces of memorabilia and posed for as many pictures in just a two-hour period. After performing with all the camp bands, he had a huge pile of Gibson guitars to sign for the VIP campers and he doled out some good (and funny) advise to some of the younger campers watching him sign the guitars–many of the campers appeared to be of junior high and high school age, and it was great to see so many young girls who took up the guitar. (At the last NYC camp in January, there were only female vocalists in the camp bands.) It was also great to catch Fred Norris jamming with Kip Winger’s band. Winger is impressive because he plays every instrument in his assigned studio with the campers.

    There will be another Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp coming up sponsored by Citibank in October–you can bet we will be covering that and our pal Rudy will be coming back (so we are putting all bass players on alert) and before then there is the camp with Paul Stanley at the Playboy Mansion (see rockcamp.com/ for more details). Til it’s time to report on the next R&R Fantasy Camp here at the MAC WIRE, keep practicing and save up your pennies, because this superstar-studded camp is so worth the dough! You can bet that MAC WIRE correspondent Anne Raso will be practicing her beloved cowbell and maybe even talk Rudy Sarzo into letting her play on “Don’t Fear The Reaper” when he comes to town with Blue Oyster Cult again (LOL)!
  

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Tommy James: Still Walking In Crimson And Clover! A Quick Update!

Photos And Text By Anne M. Raso

We were lucky enough to catch up with pop legend Tommy James at the recent Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp held at the Gibson Guitar Studios in New York City. We were very impressed with the 60s and 70s pop legend’s day of “guesting” at the camp. TJ was not an official camp counselor, but he came in to do a Q&A session at lunch time with legendary drummer/producer/camp counselor Sandy Gennaro and also to perform many of his hit songs with the different camp groups. Tommy’s throat was not in the best condition that day so he just played guitar on his biggest classics–including a beautiful version of “Crimson And Clover” with The Dicksteins, the camp band spearheaded by counselor Kip Winger which, with Tommy on rhythm guitar, featured a grand total three guitarists and two drummers. Needless to say, the sound in that particular studio was quite riveting and also “Wall Of Sound”-ish!

    Before he started his big day off, we spoke to Tommy about his current goings-on at the R&R camp office that normally belonged to counselor Rudy Sarzo. As we have reported here before, Tommy has been working out the deals for both a play (that will eventually come to Broadway after touring) and movie based on his 2010 autobiography, Me, The Mob & The Music. We know he has spent a lot of the recent past in negotiations with the famous Broadway family The Nederlanders. As for the movie, Martin Scorsese originally expressed interest but he is booked up for three years with other film and TV projects, but we know that a movie announcement is due momentarily.

Tommy, who presently resides in Cedar Grove, NJ, with longtime wife Lynda, a former NYC booking agent, told us the inside scoop on the play and biopic: “The Nederlanders are going to be the big producers on the play, which is wonderful and the lead producer who is going to be very hands on is Jeff Davis, who is now doing ‘Rock Of Ages.’ I am very, very thrilled with them…what is really wonderful is that the Nederlanders are great at putting mammoth deals together–their company actually wants to put the play on first in San Francisco and Singapore.

As for the movie soundtrack, “I am going to of course insist on consulting on the music–and we are going to recreate some of our session very accurately in the film–especially ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, ‘Crimson And Clover’ and ‘Hanky Panky’–I have to show those songs in the films being recorded with the accurate equipment of the time.” Tommy says he is willing to let the lead actor sing: “I think it is necessary for the actor to sing–lip syncing just looks too fake.”

Tommy has also been thrilled with how his book has been doing since its release last year–if you look on amazon.com, you will see that many people that purchase the Keith Richards autobiography, Life, seem to pick up Tommy’s book at the same time. Apparently, this rock legend is rolling still rolling in fields of “crimson and clover”–even though he outed nearly all the mobsters involved with Roulette Records and the music business in general circa the 1960s and 1970s and had to eventually sue for unpaid royalties. He admits that he had to wait for all the dark characters in question to be dead before writing Me, The Mob The Music. The son of a mobster Tommy knew “back in the day” recently met up with him and spoke of the “good old days,” but fortunately, really just wanted to reminisce and get his book signed.

We can’t wait to check out both the TJ play and film–and you can bet that you will hear all the formal details about them once they’re announced right here on themacwire.com!

The Mac Wire’s Anne Raso Goes To Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp


Text And Photos By Anne M. Raso

Have you ever wondered about Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp and whether it is worth the steep price of admission? Well, we here at themacwire.com say to pick one of the camps with your favorite artist as a counselor and invest your hard-earned cash…because you get to spend hours upon hours with them in an intimate setting and learn three songs with them (including an original) and even get to record with them if you select certain package deals for the camp!

   We observed for a couple of days at the recent New York Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp, held at the Gibson Guitar Studios in midtown (this is the former Hit Factory where the likes of Thriller were recorded), and we were lucky enough to roam freely from studio to studio and check out the “counselors” (rock stars) and “campers” (students). Each band named themselves, learned three songs (including a Who song to be performed with visiting superstar Roger Daltrey) and recorded one song in a nearby studio. Bands consisted of six or seven members plus the counselors. Counselors during our visit included Rudy Sarzo, Mark Hudson, Sandy Gennaro, Non Hendryx, Mark Farner, Richie Kotzen and Kip Winger. We have to admire all the patience and knowledge the ccounselors had with their “campers”–and have to extend a special thank you to Mark Hudson for letting yours truly play tambourine on the all-star jam of The Beatles “I Saw Her Standing There” and to Richie Kotzen for letting me play cow bell on The Who’s “Can’t Explain.” 

     Each counselors also gave a “Master Class” where students could request to play anything from the artist’s repertoire. We sat in on Mark Farner’s class last Sunday in the basement of the Gibson Studios and were impressed to learn that Mark can play every part of every Grand Funk song! He took time out to give each camper who came up to the stage a “run down” no matter what instrument they played…and he was also up to having anyone who wanted in the crowd to come up and play tambourine or sing background vocals. Mark did a fierce version of “Mean Mistreater” with the campers and it was something no one else got to hear either privately (as part of his Camp group Red In The Hood or at the BB King’s show all the camp groups performed during their “showdown” at BB King’s).

     Many of the campers were given R&R Fantasy Camp packages as birthday, Christmas and Hanukkah gifts and most of the ones we spoke to worked nine to fives or owned business outside of the music biz. When we checked into drummer/counselor Sandy Gennaro’s room, we found an interesting a friendly group from all over the country whose chosen group name at Camp was The Usual Suspects. Lead singer Donna Travis has a Pat Benataresque vocal style and particularly soared on “I Hate Myself For Loving You”–one of the three songs the band had to learn as part of the R&R Fantasy camp program. Travis, who lives in Milford, CT, is the single mom of twin 14-year-old girls and is an administrative assistant to the head of the legal dept for Subway World Headquaters. Also, to give our readers an idea of diversity in each camp band, The Usual Suspects also featured Jeff Boice on guitar, who in everyday life is one of the owners of Classic Kitchen & Bath in Roslyn, NY, and Lee Stahl, another axeman, and owner of The Renovated Home in Manhattan.
    We also spent time with old acquaintance Rudy Sarzo, who we knew back in his Quiet Riot days and has since gone on to play bass with everyone and anyone–at press time he is with Blue Oyster Cult but was Ronnie James Dio’s bassist (and longtime friend) at the time of his passing last year. Rudy is an excellent counselor because of his easygoing nature and ability to find humor in anything–and because he has played with so many bands, his repertoire is amazing. When Roger Daltrey made the rounds to sing a selected song with each band, he did “Behind blue Eyes” with Rudy’s band (Heart Of Steal) and it was possibly the high point of the entire camp to get such an intimate audience with the Who legend. There were only a dozen people in the room, and Roger not only signed and posed for pics with everyone after singing “Behind Blue Eyes” but also spent some private time and shared hugs with the band’s lead singer. Hearts Of Steal performed an original song called “Seven Year Fog” about this touching subject matter for Roger, who seemed to greatly appreciate it.

    The “grand finale” to camp was the benefit for Jesse Farner at BB King’s on Monday, January 17th. The goal was to raise 100,000 for the Grand Funk legend’s 21-year-old song who is paralyzed as the result of a spinal cord injury. Farner has been busy making his Michigan home disability-friendly and besides having each camp band do ten minutes sets each, there were guest stars popping in and out including Bad Company’s Simon Kirke, AC/DC’s Cliff Williams and an hour long set by Roger Daltrey which included some unusual musical choices on his part (we never expected him to perform “Sweet Little Sixteen” or “Born To Run”)! Other than some technical difficulties during Roger’s set, it was a mind-blowing night and 3 Doors Down flew up all the way from their native Mississippi to do a half hour set. Promoter David Fishof auctioned off seven or eight newer models of Gibson guitars signed by all the rockers participating in the show of the tune of three and four grand each, which definitely helped up the take for the charity show.

    As you may know, VH1 has been televising Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp and there are camps coming up all over the globe. The next one is in late February at the Bahamas’ Atlantis Resorts and features Tommy Lee, Lita Ford, Ritchie Kotzen, Rudy Saro and more, so be sure to go to rockandrollfantasycamp.com to check out the details. We will be keeping an eye on all campers who participated in the future to see if they are able to climb the rock and roll ladder and “go pro”! We were quite impressed with that talented campers, who ranged from sixth graders to 50-something plastic surgeons! We want to see if anyone’s going to be able to give up their “day job”! (One of our camp favorites on vocals was Mark Dickstein of the camp band mentored by counselor Kip Winger called The Dicksteins. Mark actually has a band in the West Palm Beach area named Wild Card–and he’s one of our camp “picks to click”!)

Donna Travis, a Connecticut-based Rock And Roll Fantasy Camper who sang lead in Sandy Gennaro’s group The Unusual Suspects, could not resist planting a big wet one on Roger Daltrey when he came into her group’s studio to both perform and observe. Can any girl blame her?

The Mac Wire’s Hot Pick For Tonight: All Star R&R Fantasy Camp Jam Fundraiser At BB Kings’s NYC

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Two of tonight’s luminaries–Rudy Sarzo and Roger Daltrey–their all-star jam tonight in honor of Mark Farner’s son Jesse is going to be a rock blockbuster! (On Sunday at Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp, Roger performed “Behind Blue Eyes” with Rudy, a camp counselor, and his band Heart Of Steel.)


Mark Farner–one of the most talented of all the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp counselors and of course, a rock legend. Will Roger Daltrey perform Who songs with Mark (AKA “The Captain”)  tonight at BB King’s Times Square at the benefit for his son Jesse? We have to keep our lips sealed, but we think there’s a good chance personally! 
By Anne Raso

We were just lucky enough to spend time hanging out with Mark Farner and his group of Rock And Roll Fantasy Campers (who call themselves Red In The Hood, partially because of their talented red-haired female lead vocalist, Christy Hemme, a hostess of Spike TV’s TNA Wrestling). Mark has been one of the most inspirational “camp counselors” and really gives 100 per cent into coaching his rock-star-wannabe pupils. He also let anyone camper who wanted to jam with him last night over at the camp, which takes place at the Gibson Studios over in midtown (the space was formerly know for housing the Hit Factory and is still divided up into many individual studios where the campers did their thing).

Tonight at BB King’s is a benefit for Mark’s son Jesse Farner, 21, who is paralyzed after a severe neck cord injury. When we spoke to Mark yesterday, he told themacwire.com that he is totally renovating his Michigan home to be handicap-friendly for Jesse, and it is a big undertaking. 

Being the legend that he is, Mark will be making some foot-stomping music tonight with not only the fabulously talented Rock And Roll Fantasy campers, but some of its biggest luminaries! Yes, we snuck into rehearsals yesterday, and caught all the counselors (including Rudy Sarzo, Mark Farner, Sandy Genaro, Mark Hudson and Richie Kotzen) jamming together with Roger Daltrey on Who songs and you will not want to miss this. Simon Kirke was on bass and it was a blast. Tonight, performing on the bill besides Mr. Daltrey as the headliner, will be 3 Doors Down and Cliff Williams of AC/DC. It’s a rare mix of artists you will never get to see together again–so head to town or where a frown! And remember that the show is for a great, great cause!

TICKETS: Tickets for the event are available through Ticketmaster. Included in $300 ticket price are early VIP seating, meet and greet with Mark Farner and friends. Tickets just for show at 7PM are also available for $50–go to markfarner.com, rockcamp.com and bbkingblues.com for more info.


Photos: Anne Raso