Monday, February 20, 2012

Pheaturing Tony Braunagel From The Robert Cray Band

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another entry the Phile, how are you? Do you know what today is? Twenty-four years ago today I started working at Walt Disney World. I guess I'm a lifer.  Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ© released five pictures of their month-old daughter. Hear that, Facebook friends with babies? Only five pictures.  Some election news. Last weekend was the Maine caucuses. And here’s the crazy part... Adele actually won that, too. Rick Santorum said women might not be suited for military action because their emotions aren't suited for combat. Which can mean only one thing: he’s never seen an episode of "The View".  The Golden Collar Awards were announced for canine actors. Best dog in a theatrical film, in a TV series, and in a reality TV series. How does the dog know it's in a reality series? I'm pretty sure that's just a dog walking around in its house. Speaking of dogs, The Westminster Dog Show took place in New York. It combines the excitement of people walking dogs to the thrill of dogs sitting perfectly still.  President Obama was here in Hollywood a few days ago. I'm willing to give money to the Obama campaign as long as when they leave Hollywood, they load all of the "American Idol" karaoke singers onto Air Force One and take them with him.  The obesity rate among school kids has been on the rise. Schools are having to order special desks and seats for students who are particularly obese. Is exercise just out of the question now? There is one good thing about our students getting fatter. Our teachers are now less likely to want to have sex with them.  So, Whitney Houston's funeral was the other day. People in New jersey were crying their hearts out, and then they released an inspirational poster. Take a look, kids.

One of my favorite TV shows is ending in a few months. I am talking of course about "House". I am so happy they keep releasing "House" inspired inspirational posters. So, here's another one.

Okay, I have to talk about this, yesterday I went to MegaCon after missing it last year, and I had a great time. In my life there are three people I always wanted to see in person... Jim Henson, George Lucas and Stan Lee. I met Henson when they filmed "The Muppets Go to Walt Disney World" in the 90's, and I saw Lucas briefly last May when Star Tours opened. And finally, I saw Stan Lee at megaCon yesterday. I tried to take a picture of him walking out his panel which I sat in, and this is what I got. 

He was moving so fast for a 90 plus old man. I sat through his panel and it was one of th funniest panels I ever saw. Great stuff. Anyway, all I can say is, dear comic books, thank you.

Alright, now for some sad news...

Gary Carter
Apr 8, 1954 - Feb 16, 2012
He "caught" cancer. Get it? He was a catcher! Ha ha!

Alright, so at MegaCon I discovered a character I didn't know existed, so I thought I would invite him to the Phile. So, please welcome the Phile's new character...

Alright, you bastards, you want a pun? I went into a nice restaurant bar wearing a shirt open at the collar and  met by a bouncer who told me I must wear a necktie to gain admission. So I went goes out to my van and he looked around for a necktie and discovered that I don't have one. I saw a set of jumper cables in my van. In desperation I tied these around my neck, managing to fashion a fairly acceptable looking knot and let the ends dangle free. I went back to the restaurant and the bouncer carefully looks me over for a few minutes and then says, "Well, OK, I guess you can come in... just don't start anything.

Thanks, PUNisher. That was very funny. To me anyway. Anyway, at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference, GOP ringleader Grover Norquist talked about who he wants in the White House. This is what he said, "All we have to do is replace Obama. ... We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Paul Ryan budget. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff." So, I have no idea what he is talking about really, so to explain it all, I thought I would invite someone to the Phile who can. So, welcome once again to the Phile, Brad Woodhouse the Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee in a pheature called...

Me: Hello, Director Woodhouse, welcome back to the Phile. So, first of, what do you think is going on with Mitt Romney? What do the parties think of him?

Brad: Given that he's been on both sides of just about every major issue, some folks in both parties have wondered whether a President Romney would be as "severely conservative" as he says.

Me: So, with what Grover Norquist said, what is the GOP party looking for?

Brad: They're not looking for a leader... they're looking for someone to rubber stamp the Tea Party agenda coming out of Congress.

Me: And Romney's their man. 

Brad: Jason, we don't just have the presidency at stake. We have the Senate to keep, and the House to gain. 

Me: And what do you think of Norquist?

Brad: Remember, Norquist is the guy who said he wants to "shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." And his speech shows us what we can look forward to if he and his allies are successful: A president who will stand for slashing Medicare, gutting Social Security, and raising taxes on the middle class so they can give the wealthy a break.

Me: What else did he say in his speech that stood out, sir?

Brad: Later in his speech, Norquist said all they must do is "pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States."

Me: So, that's what you're up against.

Brad: Yes, and from now until November, we're going to be supporting the President's efforts. And we'll be working in states and congressional districts around the country to make sure we keep people willing to pass the Tea Party agenda out of Congress, and people willing to sign it out of the White House.

Me: Thanks, sir, for you help.

Brad: No, thank you.

The 12 artist to be pheatured in the P.P.A.G. is a guy who calls him self The Stray. And this is one of his pieces. 

That's so good. Anyway, The Stray will be a guest on the Phile tomorrow. 

Today's guest is a legendary drummer who is currently with The Robert Cray Band and The Phantom Blues Band. He'll be next appearing with The Robert Cray Band tonight at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. Please welcome to the Phile... Tony Braunagel.

Me: Hello, Tony, sir welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Tony: I’m fine, I’m on the road with Robert Cray. We have five shows five days in a row in different cities starting tomorrow.

Me: I have to say, you are one of the luckiest drummers in the world, having played with some
legends, which we will get into in a minute. How long have you been playing drums, Tony?

Tony: 47 years.

Me: I took drums as a kid, Tony, but gave up. Did you take lessons or teach yourself?

Tony: Pretty much self taught. I was mentored early on by my neighbor and best friend Willie

Me: I interviewed a few drummers on the Phile recently... Jon "Bermunda" Schwarz and Bobby
Rondinelli. Have you met those two gentlemen, Tony? Is their a drummer that you were a fan of growing up?

Tony: I know Bermuda, but not Rondinelli. My favorite drummer has been Al Jackson Jr. for a
long time, but growing up I admired Buddy Rich, until I met him, and I loved all of the great R&B drummers that were playing on records that didn’t have liner notes, later to find out one of them was John “Jabo” Starks. I also was a fan of Dino Danelli with the Rascals.

Me: Like I said, you played with some of the greats... Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Buddy Guy... all my favorites. Is there anyone you haven't played with that you wish you could?

Tony: That’s a hard question to answer, I’m having so much fun playing with Robert Cray right
now, and I have been fortunate enough to play with some incredible artists already.

Me: Who was the first blues legend you played with, Tony?

Tony: When I was 19 and playing in a 10 piece soul band 6 nights a week, I was asked to go into
the studio with Albert Collins and cut some tracks late one night after the gig. The tracks were never used, but it was a great experience.

Me: You're from Houston, right? Is that where you played your first gig? Who was it with and

Tony: My first gig was in a night club on the North Side of Houston, I don’t remember the name of the joint. It was a white trash Blues, R&B gig, I was 15, and I just bought my first kit
that day. It’s a long very funny story.

Me: You played in Paul Kossoff's band Back Street Crawler. That band was from England obviously. Did you move to England to join that band, or where you already there?

Tony: I moved to London to work at Island Records as an in house studio drummer for various
artists. When Paul decided to put a band together after Free, he looked at me and Terry Wilson the bass player that I moved over there with.

Me: So, you weren't the only American in the band?

Tony: No. Terry Wilson was from Houston as well as the first keyboard player, the late Mike
Montgomery from Oklahoma, and later John “Rabbit” Bundrick took his place on the keys.

Me: You played on the second album "Second Street". Was that a good experience, Tony? It was a crazy time I am guessing. Paul was very ill during the recording of the album and WG "Snuffy" Walden had to be brought in to play guitar. What were you thinking at that time? Did you think the band would last, and that you made a mistake joining it?

Tony: I played on both records, “The Band Plays On” and “Second Street. It was an interesting
experience. Snuffy came into play when Paul hurt his hand, Paul still got some notes on the record. It did seem grim that Paul had such addiction problems. Still, we were determined to make something of the opportunity.

Me: I would of thought of quitting the band. Anyway, Paul broke his fingers at that time, right?
How the hell did that happen? Were you there?

Tony: Paul was loaded, fell off the couch onto his hand and broke some fingers. Yes, I was
there. It was never fun to watch.

Me: After Paul passed... how did he die? It was an edema, right? After he died the band continued on and changed their name to just Crawler. Whose idea was for the band to continue and shorten the name?

Tony: Paul was weakened by a near death experience earlier in the year. He was told to get
straight or lose his life. At the moment of death, no one knows what happens, but I have a strong idea. I just try not to put it into print. We were on a red eye from LA to NY. We changed the name to Crawler to take advantage of the promo the band had already had, it seemed the right thing to do. We decided as a group.

Me: Did you think that wasn't a good idea?

Tony: No.

Me: Mick Taylor was asked to be in the band I believe. Am I right?

Tony: The label wanted to have another well known guitar star in the band to continue, and yes Mick Taylor was asked to join the band and he turned it down. We hired a great musician
by the name of Geoff Whitehorn and he was the perfect addition that we needed musically.

Me: Back to Paul. He didn't play awhile with the band, and then joined for a series of shows in Los Angeles. How was he then? That must've been a big deal or the band's fans. Those must've been amazing shows. Didn't Bad Company jam with the band at those shows?

Tony: Some things I don’t remember clearly, but Paul had to be covered for a while by Snuffy.
When we played in LA Paul was on the gig, he sounded like himself and yes, Bad Company did come out, and jam.

Me: How long did Crawler last, Tony? 

Tony: We got a new manager, out of the Atlantic contract, got a new record deal with CBS, and
made two more records. We then toured the states with Kansas, Foreigner, and other arena bands of that era. We had some radio success with “Stone Cold Sober”.

Me: Did Crawler play with Foghat during this time? I think they did, Tony. Did you ever meet my dad? 

Tony: I think we did do some shows with Foghat, and don’t remember meeting your dad, sorry.

Me: After Crawler broke up did you then move back to America?

Tony: I was sort of ready to get back to the States, we tried rehearsing in Houston and then the producer decided that we didn’t have good enough material for another record, his mistake, Gary Lyons, so he turned double agent on us and blew our deal. Rabbit was approached by Townsend to join The Who, and who could resist that. We just dissolved around those events. Wilson and I continued working in Texas and a few months later I moved to Los Angeles.

Me: A few live "Crawler" albums were released within a few years ago, from Bundricks' archives. did you listen to these releases? What do you think of them?

Tony: I think we were a very good hybrid of English Rock and Texas soul. We were in some
ways ahead of our time. We just didn’t hang on any longer to see if it would work.

Me: Okay, let's move on... you played drums on Bonnie Raitt's huge two albums... "Nick of Time" and "Luck of the Draw". When you were recording the first album did you think or was it talked about that the album was gonna be Bonnie's break-out record?

Tony: No one ever knows what is going to happen in that situation. Those were great records,
Ricky Fataar played on most of the tracks. I only played on one track on each and some percussion on “Nick Of Time”. I played on one of the best ballads of all time on "Luck Of
The Draw... “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. Bonnie was due, she is an incredible singer, artist, musician.

Me: When it became so huge, how was the reaction in the band? Bonnie must've been thrilled.

Tony: We were on the Grammy’s telecast when she won the four Grammy’s. It was very exciting for all of us.

Me: Tony, you not only play drums and do percussion, but you also play bass and sing. What do
you like better to do?

Tony: I don’t effectively play bass, I just plunk at it, but I used to sing background vocals and
have been known to sing lead on a fun gig.

Me: And what came first, the bass or drums?

Tony: Drums.

Me: I have to ask you about this, you also were in the TV show "According to Jim". How did that happen? You played with Jim Belushi's band so I am guessing he put you in the show's band.

Tony: Jim wanted someone from the band, The Sacred Hearts to be in the TV show. My face in
the pilot and my audition, along with a nudge from Jim got me on the show. I did about 40 episodes in 8 years of the run. It’s still in re-runs.

Me: Do you still perform with Jim Belushi?

Tony: I still occasionally perform with Jim and the band and also do the Blues Brothers gigs, all whenever I’m not on the road with Robert Cray.

Me: There's someone you work with that was on the Phile a few years ago, and that is Mike
Finnigan. You guys play in the Phantom Blues Band, right?

Tony: Yes, Mike and I are bandmates in Phantom Blues Band.

Me: Who else is in the band and how did you all come together?

Tony: We were playing at the Mint in LA as a band called Padlock for a while. John Porter was
producing records and started to hire us, separately and collectively. Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, Darrell Leonard on trumpet, Joe Sublett on saxophone, and Larry Fulcher on bass.

Me: The band not only released there own great records but played and recorded with one of my favorite singers of all time... Taj Mahal. How did Taj get to pick your band to be his band, or was it the other way round?

Tony: We have a third record that just came out on Vizztone. The core of our band was playing on Taj’s records produced by John Porter. When Taj was going on the road we were approached to do one promo tour with him and stayed there for about 8 years. It was great playing behind Taj with P.B.B. Taj is such a strong performer and consumate musical artist.

Me: And as we mentioned, currently you are with the Robert Cray Band and Eric Burdon. What is the latest release you have been on, Tony?

Tony: I’m not playing live with Eric Burdon, but I’ve just finished producing the third record
with him. I just finished playing drums on a record for Beverly McClellan. It’s a great record, check it out. I love playing with Richard Cousins on bass and Jim Pugh on keyboards in the Robert Cray Band. Robert is one of the greatest singers and guitar players I’ve ever played with
and he does both at the same time. He’s a great person, we all have fun and get along well. The music is strong every night. It plays like a jazz quartet playing Memphis to Chicago and everywhere in between, blues and R&B.

Me: You do a lot of producing as well. Is that something you kinda fell into?

Tony: Yes, I kept saying affirmatively that I wanted to produce, I took the steps, and made it
happen. I produced the 2000 Grammy winning live CD on Taj and P.B.B., called “Shoutin’
In Key”. I have a record that came out last year on Trampled Under Foot from Kansas City doing great, as well as Billy Thompson, and co-produced CD number two for Curtis Salgado, a great R&B singer from Portland, which will be released this year.

Me: I am guessing you like playing on stage a lot more, am I right?

Tony: I love producing as well, it’s all creative. It’s a big commitment and responsibility but it
feels great when you get good results.

Me: I read you are working on an instructional book. Is that a drum instructional book?

Tony: It’s a book about the Blues Shuffle. I can’t seem to find the time to finish it.

Me: Also, you were involved with something called DrumCore. What is that exactly? It is
DrumCore not DrumCorp, right?

Tony: It’s a digital plug in with real drummers playing real beats and you edit two bar phrases
together. It sounds great and it feels pretty real. Yes, it’s DrumCore.

Me: So, Tony, what's the next project you're going to be working on?

Tony: We will be making another record with Robert and the band next month. I am talking to a couple of other blues artists about producing their new records.

Me: Well, you are a busy man, sir. Thanks so much for taking time out to be on the Phile, and please come back, sir. I have so many more questions to ask you. All the best, and thanks again.

Tony: You are welcome, keep up the good blogging, and I hope that we cross paths again. 

Well, that about doe sit for another great entry of the Phile. That was one of my favorite entries ever. Not everyday I feel good about them when I am done. Alright, the Phile will be back tomorrow with an extra entry and the guest will be artist The Stray. Then on Wednesday it's Alumni Tish Meeks from 3 Kisses and next Sunday it's Lizzy Ross, and then on Monday it's singer Martina Downey. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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