Sunday 6 January 2013

From Vegas to....Stourbridge...?

"Hey! Who's that with Jerry Scheff?"
Funny old world innit? One minute you’re on stage in Hawaii, backing quite possibly the most famous man in the world and the next you’re in a bar in the West Midlands playing with a Doors tribute band. Welcome to the world of Jerry Scheff.
Who’s Jerry Scheff? It’s a good question as long as you’re not a Bassist. If you are a Bassist and you don’t know who he is then put all your gear on Ebay and take up knitting. We’ll all wait while you do that…
Jerry is one of the ‘old school’ of session musicians, a la Carol Kaye, Bob Babbitt, Lee Sklar etc. Versatile and reliable – monster technique and perfectly willing to wear a red or white skintight sequinned jumpsuit as the need arises. Which it did a lot in the early-mid 70’s, when Jerry was Presley’s first call Bassman.
‘Yeah, all this is fascinating stuff Rushbo, you big nerd, but why are you banging on about this now?’ Well you cheeky scamp, Jerry played in a bar in Stourbridge last night, approximately four miles away from where I’m typing this. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I found that out…the Rock History bore and the Bass playing geeks within me were positively vibrating with joy. So I went. And it was pretty good.
Jerry has a book out – ‘Way Down’ which chronicles his career and this gig was a plug for that as well as a bit of fun for him. He did a quick meet and greet to a motley collection of Doors fans, Presley obsessives and Bassnerds. He was happy to answer banal questions he’d heard a million times (although ‘heard’ might be the wrong word as rather alarmingly for a musician, he’s as deaf as a post…) and posed for some happy snaps. He then tottered a little unsteadily on stage to join a local cabaret/function band called Mondo Carne to run through some choice Presley tunes. He also whipped out a bunch of others including ‘Forever Young’ (he was in ol’ Bobby D’s band for years) and, rather surprisingly, ‘What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” He was also joined by some guys from a band called ‘The Strange Doors’ with whom he played   ‘Riders on the storm’ and ‘LA Woman’…both tracks he’d recorded with the Doors back in the 60’s.
The whole thing was just about the right side of chicken-in-a-basketness. Although Jerry looks a little bit frail (as well he might – he’s 72), I was amazed and delighted by his playing – beautifully fluent and surprisingly aggressive. I had to play ‘LA Woman’ whilst depping on Bass for a friends’ band recently and that is one tasty Bassline, boys and girls.  I can only hope that when I reach his age (hopefully!) I can still beat on the Bass with that degree of aplomb. He also seemed delighted to be playing in front of a three hundred people in a bar, considering that this is a man who has played some of the biggest venues in the world. But to be fair, there are some really great Balti houses just outside of Stourbridge – the same cannot be said for Madison Square Garden, I believe.  Good on yer, Jerry.
So, for your delectation (and as a bit of filler while I figure out what my next ‘downloadable’ post will be) here’s Mr Scheff in all his pomp, redefining perpetual motion behind Mr. E.A. Presley on ‘Suspicious Minds’. Check out the Bassline from about two minutes in. Oh my days….