NEW! Greg Bonds Musical Musings

One of a kind Stratocaster

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Pete Townsends broken and smashed Stratocaster.
Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at your favorite Stratocaster?
Have you thought to yourself ‘I wonder what would happen if you crossed that with a Fabergé Egg?’Well no, you probably haven’t, I mean who thinks that? No, no-one would ever think of crossing the Peter Carl Fabergé famed jewelled eggs with Leo Fender’s most popular guitar.

Fender-Pine-Cone-Stratocaster-Faberge_grande

Nobody apart from Fender senior master builder Yuriy Shishkov that is. The mind behind the ‘Birdflower Telecaster’ – Yuriy cast his eyes on the iconic curves of the Stratocaster and thought just that. “I thought that the timeless, simple yet elegant pattern design of a Fabergé Pine Cone Easter egg would look beautiful on the Stratocaster body.

2014YuriyShishkov-pine-cone-Stratocaster-faberge_grande

The guitar’s curves and flowing shape perfectly fit the rounded profile of the Faberge masterpiece.”
- Yuriy Shishkov
Thus the Pine Cone Stratocaster was born. Boasting 10ft of painstakingly hand inlaid 18-karat gold wire trellis along the fingerboard, 550 high grade diamonds and Pine Cone “scales” made of fine silver (and more gold, because why not?).
All handworked to give the Strat it’s exquisitely detailed finish. This Fender is worthy of the Russian Tsars of old. The guitar is complemented by its own matching Fabergé Pine Cone Easter egg (containing a miniature Elephant, like the original, and with matching serial number), hand tooled blue leather strap and of course, fully lit display case.
Now, million pound question: is it any good? Well, Fender Custom Shop does hold a fearsome reputation, and rightly so. Underneath all the bling there’s a one piece maple body, the highest grade birdseye maple neck and NOS pickups hand wound by the legendary Abigail Ybarra,

2014YuriyShishkov-pine-cone-Stratocaster-faberge-1_grande

I think the answer is going to a resounding yes. It’s also worth mentioning that the routing of the body is unlike any other Strat past or present – allowing for more surface area on which Yuriy can apply the guitars hand-stained blue scales.
While this guitar has certainly polarised opinions here at VGB, it has to be said that the level of craftsmanship, skill and creativity shown by Yuriy is really of its own. Taking two worlds separated by over 100 years and combining them to create a truly dazzling work of art. This is a one in a million guitar.

The koolest footpedals with radical sounds.

USA Muff Collection

 Systech Harmonic Energizer –

Fredric-Do-the-Weasel-Stomp-3_2048x2048_medium

What is it?

A very rare and weird box full of signature fuzzy wah goodness. FE have taken Zappa’s favourite toy and added a switchable fuzz circuit and totally independent gain controls. Pulling these out of the mix for a second, you get a super precise filter, however as you begin to dial in the gain you start getting some seriously unique lead tones, and when you start dialling in the fuzz you are launched into a universe of soaring oddball sounds. The DTWS is as versatile as it is odd, simply used for that cocked wah distortion sound, a bass / treble boost or turn everything up and get that throaty attack. FE have added an expression pedal jack, meaning you can take control of the frequency, turning the pedal into a wah.

Why should I buy one?

Because its uniqueness and usability makes the DTWS a must have for all fans of fuzz / distortion.

Pocket Weasel

What’s is it?

Taking inspiration from the above DTWS, FE created this original stompbox, the Pocket Weasel. Not too dissimilar from the DTWS, the Pocket Weasel has a broader frequency range, from a piercing treble attack, through to a rumbling bass boost and stopping off on those ‘cocked wah’ style tones in between. The fuzz circuits boast a Germanium transistor gain stage making this a rougher tone that the DTWS.

Why should I buy one?

The frequency range on the PW makes it a great pedal for all genres, creating unique lead tones that’ll follow across the deepest funk groove, the heaviest metal riff and anything in-between.

What is it?

There are not many things I fear more in life than talking about Klon clones on the internet, take a look into the archive of any gear page and you’ll find a hot bed of opinions and arguments.

Anyway, we’re going to (true) bypass all of that, and I’m just going to share withyou my thoughts on FE’s transparent drive pedal. First things first, it is important to note that the Zombie Klone and Golden Eagle are the same pedal in different casings, giving you a choice between a more traditional gold pedal featuring an animal decal (I see what you did there) or a more modern blue / green finish featuring a horse­man­ centaur­zombie guy (I… kinda see what you did there). The King of Klone we’ll get to in a moment, but let’s get into the first two. So what can be said about ZK / GE?

Well, it does exactly what you’d want from a transparent overdrive. Pop it in front of your amp and get knob twiddling. This pedal can add that little bit of gain to your chain and push your tone over the edge, or be your main overdrive sound, all the while retaining clarity.

Now the King of Klone (KOK) has a very simple but very effective difference to its singular brothers… its two Klon’s in one box! Two identical (both inside and outside of the box) sets of controls leading to two independent channel switches gives you tons to play with. A classic setup would be to dial channel A for your boost sound and channel B for your overdrive. Or turn them both at the same time and get screaming! A nifty B ­sized enclosure keeps the KOK pedal board friendly while giving you three awesome gain stages to play with.

Why should I buy one?This is a must have for all guitarist in my opinion. No pedal board should be without one. Hands down our best selling pedal here at VGB, we’ve the pleasure of sending all types of big names home with one of FE’s finest pedals.

What is it?

The Utility Percolator isn’t too far from its noisier cousin the Harmonic Percolator.

Less splutters and buzzes means it’s a little bit less of a lunatic than the traditional HP, but still retains the uniqueness that you’d want from a percolator. All the controls remain the same on the outside of this box, but it’s on the inside you’ll find the changes. Fredric have put in lower leakage German germanium transistors and a low pass filter making this a much more controllable version than the vintage correct HP.

Why should I buy one?

Because it’s like the Harmonic Percolator, but on decaf.

UC- As you may have guessed, the UC is a relative of the aforementioned SUC. Focusing on the harsh FY-2 FE have added an volume circuit, controlled by a smaller dial on the face of the pedal. This gives you all the vintage nasty fuzztones you could ever want, without facing the volume drop out that has been associated with these in the past and the smaller control makes sure you don’t accidentally knock the volume up to uncontrollable levels mid gig!

Why should I buy it?It’s mean, it’s nasty and it’s loud!

How to build a beautiful guitar.

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If you’ve been playing guitar for a while you may have considered building your own instrument. It can be a great project and learning experience that will result in your adding an utterly unique guitar to your collection.

Is a DIY guitar the right project for you? Here are a few pros and cons to consider before embarking on that voyage.

Before we get into the details, it should probably be noted that building a solidbody electric guitar is a much less challenging project than building a semi- or fully hollowbody guitar. Building the latter types from scratch involves sophisticated woodworking skills and tools that will be beyond the reach of all but the most ambitious beginners. And as we note below, designs with bolt-on necks versus set necks are more beginner-friendly.

Acoustic guitars—especially those with archtops—also offer a lot of challenges. An alternative is to go the kit route. For example, the Martin Build Your Own Guitar Kit includes all the components and instructions needed to build a high quality acoustic guitar. It could be a great way to get your feet wet before tackling a DIY guitar from scratch.

hand sander on guitar top

 

What a guitar!

Guild Electric Guitars

One of my favorite guitar companies is Guild. But during the guitar boom of the 1960, when it came to electric guitars, most performers preferred Fender, Gibson, and even Gretsch. Of the electric guitars players that were known for their use of a Guild electric guitar, only a few come to mind.

1976 Guild S100 Carved

Guild acoustic guitars seemed to enjoy better name recognition than the companies electric brands. However in my opinion, Guild electric guitars were every bit as good and in some cases superior to the products being put out by their competition.

Al Dronge on the right

The Guild Guitar Company was founded in 1952 by Avram “Alfred” Dronge, a guitarist and music-store owner, and George Mann, a former executive with the Epiphone Guitar Company.

Dronge immigrated with his family to the United States in 1916 and grew up in Manhattan, near the Music Row district, around West 48th street.

He was an accomplished banjo player and guitarist. He eventually opened a music store in the same part of town back he grew up in. This was in the mid-1930’s and Dronge successfully ran it until 1948. He then amassed a fortune by importing accordions and distributing them in the early 1950’s when the accordion was a very popular musical instrument.

Al Dronge – George Mann

In 1952 his friend George Mann suggested they team up as partners in a guitar business. Mann was in management with Epiphone Guitars. Around this ttme period the company was facing upheavals by employees who wanted to unionize. To put a halt this the Stathopoli Brothers left their manufacturing facility in New York City and set up shop in Philadelphia leaving many craftsmen without work. George Mann saw the potential in hiring these out of work craftsmen.

Another friend of both men, Gene Detgen, suggested the name “Guild”. So in 1952 the company was founded with Mann as president and Dronge as vice-president and former Epiphone employees were hired. A year after forming the company Mann departed leaving Al Dronge in charge.

Guild Guitar Factory Manhattan

By 1956 the company set up shop in Manhattan, but soon moved to Hoboken, New Jersey due to expansion. The men were fortunate to hire seasoned people to run the operation such as Bob Bromberg, who was the plant manager, Carlo Greco, who was an exceptional luthier, Gilbert Diaz, who was in charge of final assembly, and Fred Augusto, a finishing specialist.

Guild F-5212

During the “Folk Era” of the 1960’s the company thrived due to its acoustic guitar production and reputation. Especially popular was the amazing Guild F5212 that sounded like a canon.

Carl Kress & George Barnes

Because of Al Dronge’s ties with the New York Jazz scene, where he played guitar at clubs during his younger days, he was able to get a lot of input from players like Johnny Smith, Son Armone, Carl Kress, and Barry Galbraith on the needs of a jazz player for an electric guitar.

’58 Johnny Smith Award

In fact Johnny Smith worked with the factory to develop a signature guitar which became the Artist Award. Another jazz giant, George Barnes, helped develop another signature guitar. Both of these models were in high demand among studio performers. A signature hollow-body guitar designed for Duane Eddy became a rockabilly classic.

1962 Guild X-175

It was during this era that Guild created some of their classic electric models such as the X-175 and the M-75 Aristocrat.

1957 M-75 Aristocrat

The M-75 Aristocrat may have looked like a Les Paul, but it was far from that guitar. The M-75 was introduced in 1954. Although it had no f-holes, it was a hollowbody guitar with a spruce top. In fact Guild fouder Al Dronge was not looking to copy the Les Paul, as his attention was bent towards Jazz guitarists and their needs.

’58 Guild Aristocrat

The pickups on this guitar looked like P-90 soap bar models, but were made by the Franz company of Astoria New York and were of a lower output. It looked like a slightly smaller version of the George Barnes model.

1967 Guild BluesBird

This model was produced through 1963, but was revived in 1967 with the name BluesBird. At this time the body was routed instead of being hollow and the pickups were replaced with humbuckers.

’70 Guld M-75

By 1970 the designation changed to the M-75 and hardward was downgraded from gold-plated to chrome plated. The body on this guitar was solid beginning around 1971.

Guild S-200 “Thunderbird”, S-100 “Polara”, S-50 “Jet Star”

It was during the 1960’s that Guild produced their finest electric guitars.

These included the Thunderbird series, the S-100 Polara, and the Starfire series.

Jerry Garcia with Guild Starfire III

Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh, all of the Grateful Dead had their Guild Starfire guitars and basses modified by the Alembic company as did bass player Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane. 

Guild Starfire

In fact one of the most iconic group of guitars produced by Guild was the Starfire series. These guitars hit the scene as early as 1960 and consisted of five guitars and two bass guitars.

The Gibson company had first offered the ES-225 guitar in 1955. The Guild Starfire II and Starfire III bore a similar body shape to this instrument with its thin body, single Florentine cutaway, and twin pickups.

Guild Starfire II

The Starfire II, much like the ES-225, was a completely hollow body guitar. The body was 1 7/8” thick and bound on the front and back. The early models came with twin DeArmond single coil pickups, which were updated to Guild humbucking pickups in 1963. A pickup selector was on the top side of the upper bout. Each pickup had its own volume and tone controls. The set-in 20 fret neck was bound and topped with a rosewood fretboard with dot position markers. The scale was 24 3/4”. The Guild logo was inlaid at the top of the headstock and below it was Guild’s Chesterfield crest.

Starfire II with DeArmond pickups

The black pickguard was tiered on the lower side and marked with the Guild logo. The strings passed over a Guild adjustable saddle that was mounted on a rosewood bridge and were secured to a Guild harp trapeze tailpiece.

The Kingsmen “Louie, Louie”

One little known fact is that Mike Mitchell, the guitarist for The Kingsmen, used a Guild Starfire II to record the solo on the groups one big hit, Louie, Louie.

1965 Guild Starfire III

The Guild Starfire III was the same guitar, but with the addition of a Bigsby B7 tailpiece. These guitars were originally available with a cherry finish.

’64 Starfire III w DeArmonds

Later sunburst was added and available until 1967. In 1962 Guild added Ebony Grain, Emerald Green, Black, White and Amber custom finishes. The original models were offered through 1973.

1968 Guild Starfire IV

In 1959 Gibson Guitars first produced their double cutaway hollowbody model known as the ES-330. In 1963 Guild took the Starfire a step further producing the hollowbody Gulld Starfire IV double cutaway model. This guitar had a slightly different shape than Gibson’s ES double cutaway guitars.

1961 Starfire IV with Natural finish

The Starfire IV usually sported twin Guild humbucking pickups on its body, but some came with DeArmond single coil models that were mounted with rings to mask the fact that the guitar was routed for humbuckers. The body was bound on the top and bottom.

Once again the Starfire IV had individual controls for tone and volume for each pickup. The selector switch was mounted on the guitars lower cutaway. The set-in neck was bound and topped with a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets and dot position markers. The body joined at the 16th fret, then after 1967 this was changed to the 18th fret, Once again the distinctive Guild logo was inlaid on the black headstock veneer, and below it was the Guild Chesterfield crest. The tuners were either Grover Sta-tites or Rotomatics. Interestingly it was available with stereo wiring as an option.

Originally this guitar was offered in cherry and sunburst. Later custom colours were added including white, black, blonde, brown and natural finish. The strings passed over a tuneable saddles mounted on a rosewood bridge and were secured to a Guild harp tailpiece.

’63 Starfire V

The Starfire V was Guild’s best selling model from this series. This was a step up from the IV model. Once again it had a 1 7/8” thick body with double cutaways that was bound on the top and bottom. It came with twin Guild humbucking pickups, although some models were produced with DeArmond single coil models. Each pickup had its own volume and tone control, with the addition of a master volume control on the lower cutaway, right below the pickup selector switch. This guitar had the familiar Guild tiered design on the lower portion of the pickguard.

’67 Starfire V

One of the biggest changes was the addition of a 3 piece laminated neck. This was topped with a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets and block inlays as position markers. As before the Guild logo was inlaid in the headstock veneer above the Chesterfield design. The tuners were first made by Kolb, the were Grover Rotomatics beginning in 1965. The other addition was the Bigsby B7 vibrato tailpiece. This guitar was also available with stereo wiring. This guitar first was offered only in cherry or sunburst, but later in custom colours.

1967 Starfire VI

The top of the line model was the Guild Starfire VI. This gorgeous instrument had all the accouterments found on the Starfire V, but with the addition of gold plated hardware, including pickup covers, selector switch, bridge saddles, pickguard mounting strap and tuning buttons. Additionally not only the body and neck were bound, but the f-holes and also the headstock.

Instead of a rosewood fretboard, the Starfire VI came with an ebony fretboard and inlaid block markers. The headstock veneer had the Guild name inlaid, and inlaid under it was a Guild “G” logo.

’67 Starfire XII

Guild produced one more version of the Starfire guitar. This was a 12 string model known as the Starfire XII. It was similar to the Guild Starfire IV in its design, which included the harp tailpiece, but came with a 12 string headstock. Some models came with metalic adjustable saddles mounted on the bridge, while other guitars were produced with just a rosewood non-tunable bridge. Few models were produced with DeArmond single coil pickups, but the majority of these guitars came with Guild humbucking pickups.

’65 Starfire bass

The Guild Starfire bass was most interesting. Player such as Jack Cassidy and Phil Lesh played this instrument (albeit that their instruments were modified by Alembic). This was a double cutaway hollow body bass, somewhat similar in shape to the 1958 version of Gibson’s EB-2 bass. However the Starfire bass was a hollow instrument that hit the scene in 1965.

1966 Starfire bass

This bass came with one Hagstrom Bisonic pickup. Originally this was mounted just above the bridge, but by 1966 was moved to the neck position. The bridge unit was also made by Hagstrom and was a metallic plate with an angled and staggered rosewood bridge. This was a short scale bass; 30 3/4”. Originally the neck was a one piece unit, but later models were three piece laminate. The neck was topped with a rosewood fretboard. There was no pickguard on the Starfire bass.

The headstock, like other Starfire models, had the Guild logo inlaid on the veneer and the Chesterfield crest. The earliest models came with only a volume and tone control, but by 1968 a push-button bass boost switch was added.

1967 Starfire II bass

In 1967 Guild came out with a double pickup version; the Guild Starfire II Bass. This model came with two Hagstrom BS-1 Bisonic pickups, each with individual volume and tone controls. The selector switch was on the lower horn and beneath it was a master volume control.

’67 Starfire II bass in emerald green

This bass included the same Hagstrom bridge/saddle unit, but no bass boost button. In fact, by 1970 this was replaced with a tone control on the single pickup model. The Starfire and Starfire II basses were available with stereo wiring or with a fretless neck. The model was discontinued by 1977.

Zal Yanovsky with Guild S-200

Guitarist Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bluesman Muddy Waters used Guild Thunderbird S-200 guitars.

’63 S-200 Thunderbird

The S-200 Thunderbird was possibly one of the more unique guitar ever created. Sometimes it is referred to as the Gumby Guitar since it’s body bears resemblance to the green claymation character.

This guitar was equipped with twin humbucking pickups, each with separate volume controls and tone controls. It also had a faceplate on the lower side of the upper bout that housed 3 slider switches in a similar manner to the Fender Jaguar.

The 2 lower switches were on/off controls for each pickup. The upper switch was an on/off mode switch. Housed between the switching faceplate and the volume potentiometers was another mode switch. Switched upward it effected only the neck pickup and downward effected both pickups. When the mode switch was on it activated capacitors that produced a single coil type of tone, while maintaining the humbucking capability of the pickups giving the guitar a sparkling clean sound.

Hagstrom Tremolo

The strings attached to a tremolo unit that was made by the Hagstrom Guitar company. The guitars neck was bound and had mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock was made with a very unique carve on it’s top and the Guild logo was inlaid above a “thunderbird” inlay.

S-200 Built-in stand

Due to the inward carve on the bottom of this guitar, some ingenious designer at Guild decided the finishing touch would be to add a metal bar to the back of the guitar that acted like a built-in guitar stand.

S-100 and S-200

The S-200 Thunderbird guitar was also produced with twin single coil pickups. The S-100 was another guitar in the series that had less switching features and  a less fancy headstock but retained the built-in guitar stand.

In 1966, the Guild Musical Instruments Corporation, as it was now known, was bought out by electronics giant Avnet Inc. This was right at the end of the guitar boom, but corporations were still hoping to profit from the popularity of the guitar.

Guild’s Westerly, Rhode Island factory

The company had outgrown it’s facility in Hoboken and the new owners decided, to move manufacturing to Westerly Rhode Island. Al Dronge was still in charge.

Sadly he was piloting a small aircraft and commuting to Westerly when his plane crashed in May of 1972. He was a popular and respected man and his employees, and the industry felt his loss.

’79 Guild D-40C

In 1972, under Guild’s new president Leon Tell, noteworthy guitarist/designer Richard “Rick” Excellente conceptualized and initiated the first dreadnought guitar with a “cut-away” with the Guild D40-C. By the 1970’s and 80’s, the Folk Era, and the Guitar Boom were history.

’84 X-79, ’87 Detonator, ’88 Liberator

To keep afloat and survive the competition Guild introduced a series of Superstrat style solid body guitars including models such as the Flyer, Aviator, Liberator and Detonator, the Tele-style T-200 and T-250 and the Pilot Bass, available in fretted, fretless, and 4- and 5-string versions.

These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks.

Guitars drying at Westerly plant

In 2001 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation was on an acquisition spree and purchased many of their competitors leaving them in name only. FMIC (Fender) purchased Guild this same year. Production had been great in Westerly for over 30 years and Guild had employed many fine craftsmen.

But Fender had plans to move production to their facility in Corona, California.

The last job the good folks in Westerly did for Guild was to put together archtop and acoustic guitar “kits” that were to be shipped to California where they would be finished and assembled. Although Corona does have a wonderful plant, production of Guild guitars was not to be continued there. Later on there were rumors that FMIC may move production back to Westerly, but nothing ever happened.

The Tacoma Guitar Factory

In 2004 FMIC purchased the assets of the Tacoma, Washington based Tacoma Guitar Company with the thought of having workers there build Guild Guitars.

Sadly Tacoma Guitars, which were unique and excellent instruments, were never built again. Guild guitars were built in Tacoma for only a few years.

Kaman Music Corp, New Hartford

In 2008 Fender acquired Kaman Music Corporation aka Ovation Guitars and moved production of Guild Guitars to that facility in New Hartford, Connecticut where production of US made Guild guitars resumed the following year.

By then FMIC was also outsourcing production. To be fair, as far back as when Guild was in Westerly, Rhode Island, the company had outsourced some of its products, but not under the Guild brand name.

1979 Madeira Guitar Ad

In the early 1970’s Guild was importing Madeira acoustic and electric guitars from Japan. Later on these were made in Korea. The pickguard shapes and headstock shapes on these instruments are different than USA made Guild guitars.

Burnside Electric

Another line imported in the 1990’s was called Burnside Electric Guitars. These were Superstrat style guitars manufactured outside of the United States. The headstocks bore the logo “Burnside by Guild”. This line up lasted only a few years.

DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup

As I have already indicated the Fender Musical Instrument Company was busy acquiring brands made by other companies. One of these was DeArmond, which was well known as the guitar pickup manufacturer, Rowe-DeArmond of Toledo, Ohio.

DeArmond M-77T

In the late 1990’s Fender made some reissues of Guild electric guitars that were manufactured in Korea and in Indonesia and marketed under the brandname DeArmond. These guitars and basses were variations on the Gulld Starfire, the X-155, the T400, the M-75 Bluesbird, and the pilot series bass. The headstock bore the DeArmond logo and some included a modified version of Guild’s Chesterfield inlay. Some even had the word Guild etched into the truss rod cover.

DeArmond Starfire IV

The best models came from Korea, while the less fancy guitars and bass examples were made in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was first offered in Europe and then in the United States and was discontinued in the early 2000’s.

New Hartford F-412

The Guild guitars produced in Connecticut at the New Hartford facility were of very high quality. These were mostly acoustic guitars.The New Hartford facility had also created a new line of specialty, limited edition guitars, referred to as the GSR Series. The GSR designation stands for “Guild Special Run.” This series was first revealed to Guild dealers at Guild’s dealer-only factory tour in mid-2009 called the “Guild Summit Retreat”.

Guild F-30 GSR

These models featured unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models.

2012 Starfire VI

In fact only one electric model was built at this facility and that was the Guild Starfire VI. Only 20 examples of this guitar were produced.

In the summer of 2014 Fender sold off the Guild brand to Cordoba guitars. Most Ovation production had already been moved to Asia and the Kaman Corporation was entirely out of the music manufacturing business.

Oxnard, CA Guild plant

Though it has taken them nearly two years to get fully back into business, Cordoba has built a new facility in Oxnard, California and placed master luthier Ren Ferguson is in charge.

Ren Ferguson

Ren Ferguson has worked for Gibson Guitars since they acquired the Flatiron Mandolin company in 1986 and is a well known figure in the music industry.

The School House Rock Interviews

Among Lynn’s greatest Schoolhouse Rock hits:

M = wrote music
L = wrote lyrics
S = sang song

  • “Interjections!” – ML
  • “A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing” – MLS
  • “Interplanet Janet” – MLS
  • “The Great American Melting Pot” – ML
  • “No More Kings” – MLS (co-sung with Bob Dorough)
  • “The Preamble” – MLS

How old were you when you began writing for Schoolhouse Rock?

About 22.

What else were you doing professionally at the time?

I had just been hired as a secretary, working in the copy department of an advertising agency called McCaffrey and McCall. It was my first job out of college and I hoped to become a copywriter. That opportunity led to a career as a copywriter, followed by freelance careers as a TV writer (Schoolhouse Rock and many others), a jingle writer, a television producer of many network shows for young people, and ultimately a musical theatre writer. It all started there.

Where were you living at the time? 

My ex-husband and I were sleeping on the floor of his sister’s apartment in Flushing, Queens. We had just arrived in NYC and were looking for jobs. (Flushing was not the New York City I had envisioned—it took me awhile to figure out where Manhattan was.) I answered two ads in the Times—one for an insurance company, one for an advertising agency. We were broke, and I would have taken the first job offered. Luckily, it was McCaffrey and McCall who offered first.

Were you already aware of Schoolhouse Rock when you were hired?

No, not at all.

How were you hired? 

I took an old-fashioned typing test to get my secretarial position. Since I’ve never learned to type, I passed with my own four-finger method. I had to be shown how to use the huge Remington Selectric typewriter, complete with a self-correcting wheel. I used to bring my guitar to work and play and write songs on my lunch hour because I was bored silly as a secretary. One day one of the producers of Schoolhouse RockGeorge Newall, passed by and casually asked me if I’d like to try writing a song for Schoolhouse Rock. I wrote “The Preamble,” it went on the air with me singing, and that was the beginning. It was dumb luck—being in the right place at the right time with the right person passing by.

Were you originally hired to write multiple songs, or just one? 

Just one. Then they started asking for more.

Did you have any say in which topics you got to write about? 

We were told the general category (American history, grammar, etc.) but we chose our own topics for the most part.

Did you propose any songs/topics that were rejected? 

Don’t think so.

How long would it take you, on average, to write a Schoolhouse Rock song?

I’m a pretty fast writer. I’d guess to research and write a song would take me anywhere from a few days to a week.

Did you do your own research or were you presented with which facts to include? 

Did my own.

Which Schoolhouse Rock song you wrote was your favorite and why? 

I’m fond of “Interplanet Janet” because she’s an adventurous female character. (And I like the way I sound singing it.) Many years later I was asked to do a rewrite for schools because Pluto had been downgraded to a non-planet. I revised the lyrics as follows:

original: And Pluto, little Pluto, is the farthest planet Janet’s been. [in aired version, “ from our sun” replaced “Janet’s been”]
revision: And Pluto’s not a planet, but Janet thinks it should have been.

What is your favorite Schoolhouse Rock song you did not write? 

I think maybe “Three Is a Magic Number.” Or maybe “Figure Eight.” They’re both beautiful.

What song you wrote (whether or not Schoolhouse Rock) is your favorite? 

This is an impossible one to answer. Between television, film, theater, and concert work, my body of work is pretty big at this point.

Which Schoolhouse Rock song was your favorite to sing? 

Probably “The Preamble.” It was the first one I wrote and sang and there was an incredible sense of glee standing at a microphone and learning how to use my voice.

Any funny stories from the recordings? 

I once had to perform live with Bobby Dorough for an ABC-TV event called Funshine Saturday, on board a ship. I was supposed to play the guitar to accompany myself (something I had never done in performance before) and I expected there would be a stool or a chair onstage for me. There was nothing to sit on, and I had not brought a guitar strap. You try playing a guitar without a strap while standing. It is, very simply, impossible. That was my first and last public performance with a musical instrument.

Lynn and Bob recording

“A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing”;

photo courtesy of George Newall

What did you think of the finished animated musical shorts? 

I thought they were brilliant—so simple and so witty, even with very limited animation.

What are your most cherished/funniest Schoolhouse Rock stories since (a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it, seeing its influence in an unexpected way, hearing a celeb you admire sing its praises, etc.)? 

When I speak to theater students at colleges—people who want to become serious musical theater writers or performers—the biggest response to my bio usually comes for Schoolhouse Rock, followed closely by “What Would You Do For a Klondike Bar.” These seem to be cultural touchstones.

What are you working on these days? 

[Recently] opened the musical Rocky on Broadway, now running at the Winter Garden Theatre. Will be premiering an original musical called Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center this coming fall, directed by Susan Stroman. And following that I’ll be premiering another new musical, based on the animated film Anastasia. (I wrote the original songs for the movie in 1998.)

What do you consider your career highlight to date? 

Going to the Oscars for Anastasia was pretty amazing. Getting Rocky to Broadway via Hamburg, Germany has been life-changing. RagtimeOnce on This Island, and Seussical were all extraordinary experiences, for very different reasons. And of course Schoolhouse Rock, which made me a professional songwriter.

Where do you live?

New York.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

That you were confused about my having a son! [MTN: I read that here.]

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication? 

Many times, and honestly I don’t recall where or when.

Do you still have any ongoing connection (professionally or personally) to Schoolhouse Rock?

I have both. Just had lunch with Bobby Dorough, George Newall, and Rad Stone to celebrate Bobby’s 90th birthday (!). And a couple of years ago, I provided four new songs, one of which was a sequel to “Interplanet Janet.”

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?  

No, and probably wouldn’t.

Anyone else connected with Schoolhouse Rock you suggest I interview? 

I’m sure you know the key—George Newall, Rad Stone, Bobby Dorough and myself. Tom Yohe and Jack Sidebotham are sadly both gone, but Tom’s son (Tom Jr.) designed some of the most recent ones, and draws in a style very similar to his dad’s. Interestingly, when he was a little boy, Tom Jr. did one of the kid’s voices on my song “Interjections!” and his young son, Tommy III, sang on one of those recent ones I mentioned. So there are three generations of Tom Yohes associated with the show.

What is your perspective on the longevity and legacy of Schoolhouse Rock?  

It’s a beautiful show that has withstood the test of time and will continue to do so because it’s completely unaffected and innocent at heart. It amazes me how many different generations have been touched by the show.

How do you look back on the experience? 

Schoolhouse Rock taught me how to write songs on assignment, work with actors, work in a studio, record music, mix tracks, work with film and sound effects. It gave me the courage to go freelance as a young songwriter. Basically, it set me on the road to here.

 

More Rock N’ Roll School of Rock

SCHOOL OF ROCK INTERVIEW Lori Lieberman

 

How old were you when you sang “The Great American Melting Pot” (1977)?

I was 20. It was the first time I had been hired to sing! The production company flew me from LA to NY and put me up at a nice hotel for three days.

What else were you doing professionally at the time?

I had just completed my first LP for Capitol Records and was preparing to go on my first tour…it was a time of firsts!

Where were you living at the time?

Los Angeles.

Were you already aware of Schoolhouse Rock when you were hired?

I was not really aware of Schoolhouse Rock before I received their call. I had been raised in Switzerland, so it had not crossed my radar.

How were you hired?

The production team got in touch with my managers and we talked about it; it was something I was excited about.

Did you have any say in which song you got to sing?

I was presented with “The Great American Melting Pot,” which was written for my voice.

Did you make any suggestions for the song?

Absolutely not—it was perfect. Lynn Ahrens, who wrote it, was incredibly astute and kind.

Why didn’t you sing any other Schoolhouse Rock songs?

I was really busy performing and recording.

Does that mean they asked you to do more?

No, I wasn’t asked!

Any funny stories from the recording?

Gosh, I don’t remember anything during the recording of the song that was funny other than, knowing me as I was then, I always sang better with a handful of peanut M&Ms during a break—nothing like a good old fashioned milkshake, too! I broke all the rules of your more traditional rules of vocalizing!

What did you think of the song?

I thought it was great. My grandparents also came from Russia, so the song really meant something to me.

What did you think of the finished animated musical short?

I thought the animation was wonderful. It really brought it to life!

What were you paid?

I don’t really remember.

Have you had any fun Schoolhouse Rock moments since (i.e. a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it)?

Well, actually, everyone [was] pretty shocked when they realize[d] I sang the song—my children especially!

What are you doing these days?

I’m in the process of recording my 16th CD. I’ve continued to write, record, and perform. I [am touring] Europe in June 2014 and I have a big concert at Carnegie Hall on November 8th—a retrospective of my four decades in this business.

Where do you live?

California.

What did your kids think of your Schoolhouse Rock song?

I have three of my own kids and five stepkids; they [all] thought the song was great!

What has been your career highlight so far?

Besides having written a poem about seeing Don McLean at the Troubadour in LA that became [the song] “Killing Me Softly,” which I recorded on my first LP for Capitol Records, I think the highlights are performing at the beautiful and legendary theater the Carre in Amsterdam, the Grammy Museum in LA, and the upcoming Carnegie Hall performance.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

I was interested in your email about the genesis of the Schoolhouse Rock song.

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication?

I’ve never been interviewed about the song before.

How do you look back on the experience?

It was a great experience. The people were wonderful, the atmosphere was very professional, and I felt really good about it.

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK INTERVIEW BOB DOROUGH

Among Bob’s greatest Schoolhouse Rock hits:

M = wrote music
L = wrote lyrics
S = sang song

  • “Three Is a Magic Number” – MLS
  • “Ready or Not, Here I Come” (fives) – MLS
  • “Figure Eight” – ML
  • “Conjunction Junction” – M
  • “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here” – MLS
  • “Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’” – ML
  • “Mother Necessity” – MLS (among other singers)
  • “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – MLS
  • “Sufferin’ til Suffrage” – M

How old were you when you began writing/singing for Schoolhouse Rock?

I would have been already 50 years old in December of 1973. By this time, Schoolhouse Rock had been on television since February. So as I began those songs, I was perhaps 47 or 48. I was never overly-conscious of age, per se, so it didn’t matter.

1976

What else were you doing professionally at the time?

I was engaged in creating some advertising music, having already produced and arranged for two or three LPs of the hot group Spanky and Our Gang. Plus, doing any jazz engagements I could scare up.

Where were you living at the time?

Where I live now, with one foot still in Long Island City, where I previously lived. One of my advertising pieces made me enough money for the down payment on my Pocono house. Legally I had changed my residence to Pennsylvania by 1966, i.e., before I’d met David B. McCall [the advertising executive who conceived of Schoolhouse Rock].

What did you think of the Schoolhouse Rock concept when it was pitched to you?

I was excited but cautious. I thought the idea was a bit puerile but then McCall added a line that shook my timbers. He said “But don’t write down to the children.” I was excited by the idea of being able to write for children (I was already a father myself) [but] cautious [in case] they wanted simplicity, like a jingle or something. (It seems he’d already sought the help of other NYC jingle composers.) His second line opened the floodgates of my life and experience in jazz, blues, and pop music.

How were you hired? Were you originally hired to write multiple songs, or just one?

There was no hiring. When they heard “Three Is a Magic Number” they (McCall and his executives) said “Oh, that’s what we’re looking for. Do some more.”

Did you have any say in which topics you got to write about?

It started as an idea to put the multiplication tables to “rock” music and call it “Multiplication Rock.” McCall wanted to finance an LP recording of the songs but, of necessity, we only went one song at a time. The recording process did begin rather early with the first session and I was being paid as an arranger and band leader in the union-approved sessions.

Did you propose any songs/topics that were rejected?

Actually, the first session tackled two songs I had written for them, “Three Is a Magic Number” and “Do Your Sevenses.” Later on, “Do Your Sevenses” was rejected. There were no “topics” at this point—just numbers.

How long would it take you, on average, to write a Schoolhouse Rock song? Did you do your own research or were you presented with which facts to include?

The first presentation consisted of me traveling to their NYC office with a cassette or tape of my song. After McCall’s challenge, I took two weeks before I brought in the “Three” song. During this two weeks, I did my own research. I had a collection of diverse math books, including one on “The New Math.” I was a sort of amateur mathematician. I imagine most musicians are into numbers quite naturally. After the animation phase began, there were hired researchers for subjects like grammar, history, and science. There was also more control in the song subjects and, of course, other songwriters at hand.

You are single-handedly responsible for many of Schoolhouse Rock’s greatest hits. Which song you wrote was your favorite and why?

I’d have to say, although it’s like asking a mother to name her favorite child, that “Three Is a Magic Number” would be my fave, since it literally got me the job. By default I was eventually hired as musical director of the projects.

Which Schoolhouse Rock song was your favorite to sing?

“Lucky Seven Sampson,” my second song about seven, was and is a favorite—a signature song of mine because, in a way, it is the story of my life.

What is your favorite Schoolhouse Rock song you did not write?

“The Tale of Mr. Morton” by Lynn Ahrens. She has the knack for telling a story that also gets the message through.

Of all songs you have written (not just Schoolhouse Rock), which is your favorite?

Again, do I have to finger one of my children? I love “Nothing Like You,” which I wrote to a Fran Landesman lyric and which was recorded by Miles Davis.

Any funny stories from the recordings?

Sessions are always funny because musicians are a funny lot. However, it (the session) is also serious business. I had an opportunity to hire some of my friends and to become friends with some musicians I hadn’t known before. There was the pleasure of providing them with work in the studio.

What did you think of the finished animated musical shorts?

Well, imagine me, a 50-year old veteran of World War II and a hodgepodge musical career, watching Saturday morning cartoons. I was thrilled to hear my voice on the mysterious telly.

How were you paid—salary, flat fee per song, royalty per song, other?

I was paid very well. There was a fee for each accepted song and this fee increased as the years went by. Plus I made union wages whenever I was in the studio as leader/pianist, arranger, and sometimes even as copyist. My pal and partner Ben Tucker often got extra pay as contractor, as well as for playing the bass.

What are your most cherished/funniest Schoolhouse Rock stories since (a reaction when someone you meet discovers you had a role in it, seeing its influence in an unexpected way, hearing a celeb you admire sing its praises, etc.)?

We all get a thrill when Rachel Maddow talks about “I’m Just a Bill” or “Conjunction Junction.” It’s amazing how the oeuvre has penetrated the national consciousness. Of course I meet countless people in my jazz work that turn out to hear “the Schoolhouse Rock guy.” It’s like food, all the tribute and love I get from schoolteachers who still use the DVD in their classrooms. I admire all those brave schoolteachers.

What are you working on these days?

Mostly, I work on my jazz singing career/songwriting successes and the like. Without the stimulus of Schoolhouse Rock, I don’t write as many songs but, now and then, I get an idea and am able to flush it out into a song.

2011

What do you consider your career highlight to date?

Singing with Miles Davis.

Where do you live?

In Northeastern Pennsylvania, just 70 miles west of the Apple.

If you have kids/grandkids, what did they think of your Schoolhouse Rock songs?

My only child is Aralee. She was just 8 and 9 when I started Multiplication Rock. She was the perfect sounding board and [took] part in several recordings (the children in “The Four Legged Zoo” and the voice in “My Hero Zero”). She is now the principal flutist of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and also plays jazz. I have one grandson and several step-grandchildren and they all think I am the cat’s pajamas.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

Oy vey, another one! I have written several times about my take on the subject and consider it my property—even what I’ve written for you.

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication?

It’s in all my PR—there was that magnificent Oxford Magazine article. So many—I’ve forgotten.

Do you still have any ongoing connection (professionally or personally) to Schoolhouse Rock?

I am the only one who speaks for and performs Schoolhouse Rock. I work in elementary schools in my area and wherever. Sometime I combine a jazz club gig with one of the schools in that (whatever) city. George Newall, Gill Dyrli, and I sometimes work in educational or technological conventions. Dr. Dyrli was hired as a consultant starting with the Grammar days, I think. I called him the “Grammar Guru.” And George Newall was a musician in Mad Men disguise. He majored in composition and played jazz piano in college, as I did; but he was one of McCall’s major advertising writers. Later on, he contributed several songs including the fabulous “Unpack Your Adjectives.”

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

Yes, the aforementioned educational conventions gave me lots of talks with fans and I have signed many, many autographs for kids from 90 to 2.

What is your perspective on the longevity and legacy of Schoolhouse Rock?

I think it is here to stay, in whatever form the media take.

How do you look back on the experience?

It is probable that a lot of the kids watching cartoons in the ‘70s grew up and perhaps worked in jazz bars as waiters, working their way through college or something. It was [in such bars], in the ‘80s, that one of them might say “I like your voice. It sounds familiar. Did you ever do any of that stuff called—what was it? Schoolhouse Rock?” This soon led me to insert the songs from Schoolhouse Rock into my jazz sets.

One of my shows is called Schoolhouse Rock and All That Jazz. Another, which was never produced, is a personal memoir called How I Wrote Multiplication Rock and Still Swung.

2011

Anything you’d like to add?

I receive more than my due credit as “the creator of Schoolhouse Rock,” etc. As the most visible representative of Schoolhouse Rock, I am out there, on the line, as it were, where I sing the songs and keep them alive.

But I owe a lot to Ben Tucker. He introduced my music to George Newall, who, as a jazz fan, used to hear Ben playing bass with Billy Taylor and/or Marion McPartland. This led to my first meeting with McCall after Ben told George that I was a guy who could “put anything to music.”

I owe so much to Tom Yohe for his brilliant animation design and to George Newall for his musical support and the fact that he gave me the title for “Conjunction Junction.”

Lynn Ahrens, for her brilliant lyrics and contributions to the project that made it such a classy act. She of course has since distinguished herself as a Broadway lyricist and librettist.

We owe much to the singing of Jack Sheldon. George says he is “the cartoon voice of the century.”

Then there is the songwriter, Dave Frishberg. He got off to a slow start with “I’m Just a Bill” as his sole contribution until we launched a fifth series called “Money Rock” where he practically stole the show.

We have not mentioned the BAM Theater Group—a bunch of “kids” who remembered Schoolhouse Rock and said, “Hey, let’s do a show.” Schoolhouse Rock Live! is now available for renting and producing in your own school or hometown, just like My Fair Lady or Bye Bye Birdie.

What happened to Oh Sherrie?

The Girl in the Video: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” (1983) and “Oh Sherrie” (1984)

 

“Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”
Of the people interviewed for (phase one of) this series, Margaret was the last person I contacted. Her video was not as front-of-mind as the others I am including, possibly because it predates when my family got cable. But in any case, I’m so glad I thought to look for her. She reported back: “My children said ‘You have to do this, mom!’”

And luckily, she took their advice.

How were you cast in the video for “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”?

I am from New Orleans where music and hospitality is part of our culture. The music scene was new wave and some punk rockers. During my high school and college days, I dated a cute musician, Chuck Menendez. It was his sister, who was in an infamous ‘80s New Orleans band called The Cold, who ultimately led me to the audition for the Journey video.

She was friends with the makeup artist in the production company. I got a call from Chuck because they hadn’t found anyone to cast for the girl part, and they wanted “his girlfriend” to come and audition. I must have been clueless; had I thought it through I probably wouldn’t have even shown up to the audition. I am relatively shy and quiet.

I was a college student at Tulane University in uptown New Orleans. I double majored in biology and environmental studies. I was working and paying my way through college so the [notion] of making money for shooting a video was a godsend. It paid $250 a day and I was paid for three days of work. That was a lot of money at the time for a student like me. So I was now the girl in the Journey video, still clueless.

What was it like making the video?

The first day on the wharf of the Mississippi River by the French Quarter was freezing. There were two Winnebagos, one for the band and another for production. Lots of people were hanging in the production RV. Everyone was friendly, saying Beverly Hillbillies lines—”Y’all come back nah, ya hear?” But in New Orleans, we have southern—not exactly hillbilly—charm. Still, it was laid back and entertaining.

The director called for the musicians. Suddenly the RV was empty. The nice, relaxed gentlemen who were so entertaining [turned out to be] the band, Journey. Immediately I was nervous and also thankful for living a life of bliss—it can save a shy person. Oh, one band member, Steve Perry, pretty much stayed to himself in his (the band’s) RV. The rest of the band continued to use our RV. I have pictures from that day and an autographed album and Steve Smith’s drumsticks, which were given to Chuck.

The second day of the shoot was perfect New Orleans weather. A touch of spring for the Mardi Gras season. I remember the band appearing later than was expected and seemingly confused. They [had gone] out the night before. What they couldn’t understand was why no one ever said “Last call!” Being a New Orleans girl, I couldn’t understand what a last call even was. They explained they were out all night because normal cities close bars and let everyone know that they are closing. But this was New Orleans, and Mardi Gras.

I couldn’t even imagine wearing my hair that way—the video was the first and last time I did. Makeup artists are just that, artists. I really appreciated her talents to enhance not just my looks but also that great time period, the ‘80s! She picked out the outfit in a local store in the French Quarter.

My boyfriend (unlike me, not clueless) bought their new album and brought it to the shoot. His brother-in-law (also not clueless) brought a camera, too [which is where these set photos come from].

How was it to work with Journey?

Everyone in the band was professional and did a great shoot that day. Steve was still reserved and quiet. I didn’t think anything of it; in fact, I thought I was the same way, so it seemed normal. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned of his girlfriend being upset that a girl was in a Journey video.

The rest of the band gladly offered their personal stories, shared photos, and enjoyed being in New Orleans. I rarely spoke, but I did talk to Jonathan Cain. Once again, I was oblivious—didn’t realize he was in one of my all-time favorite bands, The Babys, or I might have never gone near him. (I still listen to their music!)

Were you already familiar with Journey’s music?

I knew the Journey hits and loved their music. However, videos were new novelties so I didn’t know band members like we do now from videos.

Any funny anecdotes from the shoot?

When the shoot went a little longer than expected, I was running late to meet my boyfriend at his sister’s apartment, so I jumped in my car with full makeup and large ‘80s hair. It was important not to be late or I wouldn’t have parking for Endymion, one of the largest parades of the season. Luckily we had ladders set up behind the crowd to be able to see the parade. We had perfect viewing. Then the riders on each float started pointing at us, throwing beads as far as they could, bombing us as each float came by. My hair and makeup were the perfect bead magnets. It was one of the funniest times in my life and one of my best memories.

What did your parents think of the video?

My parents, God bless them, were older when the video was made. They weren’t up to date on pop culture—like knowing what MTV was or what music videos were. They didn’t seem surprised that I would be in a music video mainly for that fact. Funny, but my own children are likely to say the same about me.

What did your friends think of it?

My friends and family were supportive and, of course, happy to say they knew the “girl in the Journey video.”

Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?

If there was any controversy, the band made sure I was not a part.

Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the video, and if so, how did that feel?

I did watch [it]. I was with friends who were in Chuck’s band at the time. We were so excited we even taped it on the Betamax!

I also watched Marilyn McCoo introduce it on Solid Gold. I have tried and tried to get the tape of when it was on Beavis & Butthead. I think that episode made me really think this video surpasses all others and is a true icon. That was the defining moment.

Were you ever recognized in public? How often and when last? Any stories about that?

I haven’t been recognized in public outright. To illustrate, about a year ago, our oldest daughter was presented as a Maid in the court of Neptune. An ‘80s cover band, equipped with videos, played “Separate Ways” at the ball. My daughter and I had the best time dancing and walking and laughing and being in the spotlight during that song! My husband thought the band should know that I was the girl in the video they just played and brought me backstage. For whatever reason, the band lacked enthusiasm. They were, however, polite enough to say that I did look like the girl in the video, especially around the eyes.

What are you doing these days?

I’m very proud and happy that Chuck and I married at the ripe age of 21 (about a year after the video was made). I am super thankful to say I am married to my best friend and sweetheart. We met when we were thirteen, then dated through high school and college. When Chuck got down on his knee to propose, he made sure a Journey song was playing.

I am the proud mother of our four beautiful children. They are Chase (25), who is attending MSU and completing [a degree in] broadcast meteorology; Madeline (21), who is attending Belmont University and studying music business/math while songwriting and recording music; Laina (14), who is entering 9th grade at St. Patrick Catholic High School; and Briggs (9), who is entering 4th grade at St. James Elementary School. I am blessed to be able to be at home raising them and enjoying every moment! I enjoy, and have to laugh, when I’ve been running around all day in sweats and a T-shirt, then I bring Briggs to his guitar lesson and the guy in the music store wants to know “What was it like to meet Journey?”

What do your kids think of the video?

I guess this video stands the test of time. My children are not embarrassed. In fact, they and their friends are impressed. [By] text I get pictures and videos from their friends singing “Separate Ways” to the video while they are out, and at any time of day or night. I love that! Their happiness is priceless.

Where do you live?

We live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Yes, we met Katrina up [close] and personally; she destroyed our home on the beach.

There were many miracles during that time. One, I guess you can say, is that one wall of our home survived the storm’s surge. We returned to survey the damages, and still hanging [on] this wall was the framed, autographed Journey album. It still has the remnants of the marsh and is proudly displayed in my husband’s office. The drumsticks, sadly, are now a part of Katrina’s collection. Luckily, I placed most of our photos upstairs in a container, and I also have pictures taken during the video. Journey came to Biloxi, MS not long after the storm. After the performance, I gave a roadie a picture taken during the shoot. I asked him if he could get the band to sign it. He brought it back to me with thoughtful comments and autographs! That is all the contact I have ever had with Journey since the video.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

Lately the attention I receive from the video has grown. I get random questions about it, stories from friends when they tell other people they know me, and a lot of attention from my children’s friends. I mostly hear “How cool!” Still, even with this attention, I was so shocked to get your request to answer some questions!

Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this? Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

I haven’t been interviewed, other than curious friends asking what it was like to be a part of it. I haven’t been to any conventions, either.

How do you look back on the experience?

I most appreciate the fact that while making the video, the band was especially nice to me. They were all easygoing. I think they truly respected each other. I guess they are genuine, thoughtful people who also have talent beyond belief. Steve Smith seemed to like having a fan who was also a drummer (Chuck) on the set.

Janet Cross (who appeared in Huey Lewis and the News’s “If This Is It” video) is related to Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park). Are you?

I no longer have my father’s research (Katrina) but he claimed Frederick Law Olmsted was my great-great uncle (?). The Olmsted family tree is gigantic so it’s possible [Janet Cross, AKA Janet Olmsted Cross] and I are distantly related, but it would take some effort to know for sure. Small world! I probably get asked about my famous relative and my connection to him more than I get asked about the Journey video though.

Anything you’d like to add?

Another recent story about this band’s heart and soul is that Neal Schon gave his guitar to a boy in the front row of a Journey concert in New Orleans. This boy loves guitar and was playing air guitar along with Neal during the concert. The cool thing is, that boy not only loves Journey…but his cousin is married to the girl in the video. I would just love for Neal Schon to know this story and how happy he made our little cousin!

Thanks for your interest. I can’t help but smile while thinking someone is actually curious about little ol’ me! I am glad to help you, and as a dear family friend and second mother to me says, “We help each other.”

BONUS: What happened to Sherrie Swafford?

Sherrie was the girlfriend of Steve Perry, classic lead singer of Journey, and the inspiration for the 1984 hit “Oh Sherrie.” She also appeared in the video and, if you ask me, she emanates sincerity.

To my great thrill, I found Sherrie. To my great disappointment (but complete understanding), she was not comfortable participating. But to my great honor, she wrote this brief update and said I could share it:

What happened to the 80s?

NOTES:

  • Mimi’s last name is now Hanson.
  • Meghan Broadhead, who played Mimi’s older sister in the movie, is her sister in real life; she did not respond to my interview request.
  • Photos courtesy of Mimi.

How old were you when you were cast in Footloose?

If I remember correctly, I was eight years old during the audition process and the filming; I was in the third grade. The most exciting part of the whole thing for me was I missed the last part of my second grade year for filming. I was unaware they had a teacher on the set, so that was quickly dashed.

How did you get the role?

Actually, I had been acting since the age of four. My parents were both performers. My father was a stage actor and my mother was an opera singer; they were both commercial actors. I had been in quite a few commercials and some print ads at that point. Utah was really starting to pick up as a filming location, so there was quite a bit of film work that came through.

When we went on the first audition, my mother told me not to get too excited because it was a “cattle call.” Initially I learned the lines for the younger sister, the part I finally played in the movie. When we got to the audition, I was told I had to read for the older sister. My mom scrambled to teach me those lines. It meant my older sister [in real life] and I would be reading for the same part. When it was my turn to go back, I had no qualms about expressing to the casting director [that] I was really upset because I liked the other part better and I was told I couldn’t try out for it. The casting director shrugged and said “Well, I don’t see why not.” I read for the younger sister. The next callback, my older sister and I read together as sisters, and I think there was one more callback where we read for Herbert Ross (director) and Lew Rachmil (producer), though that might have been the same audition.

In the end, my older sister and I were cast together to play sisters in the movie.

What other members of your family were in the movie?

Aside from my older sister, my father was cast in the role of Mayor Dooley, my mother and my little brothers were extras in some of the large town scenes, and my 14-year-old brother was not in the film but got a job working for the company that catered the set.

Any funny anecdotes about your Footloose experience?

My funniest memory was the day we filmed the scene where the brick went through our bedroom window. Herbert Ross was a great director, but he had a bit of trouble evoking a performance out of me that day. I was so distracted by the movie glass on the floor once somebody told me it was made of sugar. I was also distracted with the fact that we were filming a nighttime scene in the middle of the day. I kept bringing what I perceived to be a huge mistake to the attention of someone on set (I don’t remember who) and they kept assuring me it would look like night when the movie was done.

I want to preface this by saying I didn’t have a single bad experience working on this film and Herbert Ross was one of the kindest men that I ever met. That being said, to try and direct a performance of a child who is scared, I remember him stomping around, raising his voice, slamming things to make loud noises, slamming around stuffed animals…but the problem was I was not the least bit scared of this man. I quite liked him and I found his tirade as an attempt to be humorous. My sister was doing a great job, pulling out all of the stops. I just couldn’t get into it. Finally, they broke out the glycerin tears and did the best they could. I think I still didn’t realize what was going on. It was one of those situations that clicked much later in life.

For the two dinner scenes that were shot, they asked my sister and me what we liked and didn’t like to eat and constructed the final set food accordingly. When the day came to shoot the first dinner scene, a plate of food was put in front of me and I was getting ready to devour it; after all, they made everything that I liked. Whatever set member put this plate in front of me grabbed my hand and said “Oh no, you can’t eat it.” I was really confused. I was instructed to take bites only while the camera was rolling [and] only during certain shots. I was, of course, not allowed to eat the food when I had lines to deliver. The idea was that I wasn’t supposed to fill up too fast because the filming was slated to take a while. I didn’t understand all of the rules; what I did understand is that there was food in front of me that smelled really good, so the game became to shovel as many bites as I could into my mouth while the crew member who told me I couldn’t eat wasn’t looking. The inhaling of massive amounts of air with my purloined bites of food gave me a massive case of very loud hiccups. Suddenly the focus of everyone became curing my hiccups. All the stops were pulled out. It wasn’t until I was grown and I realized how much a movie costs to film why curing my hiccups in this scene that had the bulk of my lines in the movie was so important.

I found strange [some] little details that Herbert Ross put into the movie. The actress who played my mother was made to wear a pregnancy pillow, though no pregnancy was ever referred to in the film. My sister was fitted for a retainer, though her teeth were perfectly straight…he just thought it looked better. We were also given roller skates and told to learn how to skate well, yet nowhere in the film were we ever on roller skates—I’m not sure if that was something that was cut.

What do you remember about your impression of Kevin Bacon?

I remember Kevin Bacon as being very nice. We did do quite a few scenes with him. I formed a pretty big crush on him. In fact, shortly after filming, I got a puppy; I named him Bacon. I remember him doing yoga between takes. One day he showed my sister and me a few yoga moves. He had a stunt double, but he actually did some of the gymnastics in the film (so I heard). When we had to film the little dance sequence where he is teaching Chris Penn how to dance, I didn’t want to touch his hands as they were covered in blisters from the gymnastics.

John Lithgow?

He was very nice, but in my memories I have a fear association. John Lithgow is pretty tall. I remember him as towering over everyone. I really didn’t interact with him much.  I’m trying to remember if I knew he was in The Twilight Zone [1982 movie]. I was very scared of The Twilight Zone as a child, mostly because of the theme song. I remember certain images from the television commercial, one of which was John Lithgow in the plane. I would scramble and hide when that commercial came on. I was surprised and kind of delighted when he came out with a children’s album. It softened my memory of him.

Lori Singer?

Really very few memories. There were some scenes we were in together that were lost in rewrites before they were filmed. I met her during the rehearsal period, but that’s about all I remember.

Dianne Wiest?

I had minimal interaction with her. I don’t really remember her at all.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn?

I had to put these two together when I answered; in addition, I have to add Francis Lee McCain and John Laughlin. These are the cast members I remember most. All four treated my sister and me wonderfully and I can’t see talking about Footloose without mentioning that.

The motel that the production put us at had a swimming pool. The only stipulation was that my sister and I could not go swimming until after dark as they did not want us to get any sun. Chris Penn, John Laughlin, and Sarah Jessica Parker were always in the pool when we went down. They took time and they played with us. Over the course of filming, SJP taught me how to swim. I remember Chris Penn as being quite a clown. He was always making us laugh. It speaks a lot about him that he would take the time to interact with us. I cried off and on for a week when I heard he died. Seriously. I know that sounds dramatic, but he made that big of an impression on my life.

Sarah Jessica Parker was, and I bet she still is, amazing! I’m sure that you know that Tracy Nelson was originally slated to play Rusty. My favorite show at that time was Square Pegs. I was so excited to meet Tracy Nelson. I don’t remember how the timeline worked, but I clearly remember being at a rehearsal and Tracy Nelson was there. I was so excited to meet her, but it was quick and it was disappointing.

After I was told that she was replaced by SJP, I was even more excited! I liked her better on the show. Again, I had to psych myself up to introduce myself. The difference was she was so sweet and so warm. She hung out with us, ate lunch with us many times, and genuinely listened to us. My sister and I found out she was in Annie. We loved that movie! She answered every single one of our questions about it. In retrospect, I think a lot of that care came from the fact that she was a child actress and she truly understood what it was like. I remember her so well; I am so sorry we didn’t stay in touch with her.

Francis Lee McCain was also often with my sister, my mother, and myself in between takes. Most of the pictures I am providing you with were taken by her. She was very nice and took a lot of care in how she treated us. When, as a child, you feel like an adult has your full attention—I think [those] kinds of interactions go a long way.

Did you attend the premiere, and if so, what was that like?

My sister and didn’t attend the Hollywood premiere, but I remember there was a premiere party in Salt Lake City with a lot of the local actors in the film. We got ride in a limo, so it was really fun for us.

How often were you recognized on the street? Any funny stories about that?

Elementary school actually turned into quite a nightmare. When the move was a hit, kids were coming out of the woodworks to meet us; when the movie started to slip, the same kids would come up to me and say “Footloose sucks, you suck…” And so on. At the end of that school year, we moved to a new home. My sister and I decided we were not going to tell anyone about Footloose, but we were very quickly recognized.

When the movie was at the height of its popularity, a rumor started that Kevin Bacon was staying at our house. A car full of teenage girls pulled over by me on the way home from school one day and asked if I was the girl from the movie. After I confirmed, the same group followed me home for about a week. They stayed parked in front of our house, hoping to see Kevin Bacon. It was kind of scary for me. My father finally had to take care of it. He stormed out to their car and I was ordered into the house. I don’t know what he said to them, but I never saw them again.

Do you remember what you earned for the movie, and do you still earn residuals?

Not at the time. I remember seeing the approximate amount on my social security report a few years ago. It was in the thousands.  I still get four checks a year. It pans out to be about $200-400 annually, small enough that I forget about them. Recently I found about eight uncashed Footloose checks while moving. I took them into the bank and they could cash only a few of them because [more than] 180 days had passed. The teller, who was maybe in his early twenties, called over his supervisor, who was maybe in her late twenties, to see if there was anything she could do about depositing the older checks. The supervisor started grilling me about why I had so many checks from Paramount Pictures. After trying to steer away from the subject, I finally told her it was because I was in a movie when I was a child. The supervisor, the original teller, and another young teller started pressing me for what movie it was. Finally, I said Footloose. *silence* The supervisor says “But wasn’t that movie [only] a few years ago?” I told her I was in the original movie from the eighties. *silence* The teller asks “There was an original?!” That was the first day I felt really old.

What are you doing these days?

I’m finishing up my degree in economics with an emphasis on professional and strategic communications. I am also researching and slowly working on a book on wage inequality and the poverty trap in America. I don’t work at the moment. I spend most of my free time with my six-year-old; some days that can definitely be counted as work.

It took me a long time to get where I am at. I continued to act until I was about fifteen, when I formed horrible social anxiety. I was so focused on eventually having a career in the entertainment industry that I tried many different things, looking for something that clicked. I worked on writing screenplays for a while. I submitted a different screenplay to Sundance Feature Film Lab every year for about six years. Twice, I made it to the final round, but I never got a lab spot. I bought camera gear and worked on filming a documentary, but that was too slow of a process. I tried my hand at short films. I actually shot a short film with some friends of mine in Austin, but I never finished it. I came to the hard realization that being in entertainment was not for me.

I took a job at a coffee shop to be free enough to work on some of these other things I was doing. Before I knew it, I had been working there for twelve years. At the same time, I had been slowly chipping away at my B.S. I took so long, mainly, because I had no idea what to do. When I finally really got back into school, I made a discovery: I love math. Not only do I love math, but I am really good at it. This was major for me because all of my life I considered myself more on the English side of the fence, so I never tried to like math. I always assumed I was not good at it.

I made the decision that I was going to major in math and take the actuarial exams. I decided to minor in business because I wanted to take some finance classes and the only way I could do it was to be accepted to the business school. Through taking microeconomics as a business prerequisite, I discovered that even more than I love math, I love economics. That is the first time, as strange as it sounds, that I have truly felt fulfilled.

Any interest in acting again?

I really have no interest in acting again. As I mentioned earlier, I have battled horrible social anxiety for many years. Around 2008, my little brother was on a reality television show. Though the show was [only] marginally successful, the network really latched on to my brother to do a lot of the promotional work. A segment was booked on The Today Show where he would show how he has integrated his new healthy lifestyle into his family. It was around my birthday and my brother worked it out so the network would fly me out to New York with him; the rub was I had to appear with him on Today and in an Associated Press interview. “You have to be on national television” is about the worst sentence you can speak to someone with social anxiety issues. I was mortified, but I knew it was so important to my brother and he worked so hard to make this happen so we could go to New York for my birthday. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a blockbuster film. I have been seen by most of America, whether I like it or not. Footloose is what pulled me through.

Mimi is on the right.

In school, more recently, I have had the chance to work with two spectacular and inspiring professors who have really cultivated my love of public speaking, and I am forever grateful. It has exposed another side of myself that I really love. I love crafting talks and connecting with an audience, but 100% as myself. Acting…? No…! I am less about Hollywood and more about Ted Talks.

Where do you live?

Salt Lake City.

If you have children, how many and ages?

I have two children, both boys. My older, Christian, is 21. My younger, Leo, is six.  Yes…quite a spread. It’s like having two only children.

If they have seen you in Footloose, what do they think about it?

They have both seen it. My oldest really didn’t think much of it. My six-year-old was not interested in the movie, but was interested that I was in it. He has the acting bug and had been telling me long before he knew I was a child actor that he wanted to be in movies. I really don’t want him involved in professional acting so young. My experiences were not bad, per se, but the aftermath was really pretty bad (in school and such). I would rather he be a kid. I let him do a YouTube channel with his father. They do toy reviews and they have a lot of fun with it, but that is about as far as I want it to go.

Have you ever participated in a Footloose-related event (reunion, convention, documentary, etc.)? If not, would you be open to meeting fans and signing autographs?

I haven’t, no. I suppose I would be open to it.

When was the last time you saw a member of the cast, and was it on purpose or by chance?

None of the heavy hitters. The man who played the cop that pulled Kevin Bacon over was once a substitute teacher at my junior high school.

When was the last time you watched Footloose? How did you think it held up?

I have watched my parts with my son, but I don’t think I have watched the full movie for about ten years. I mean, no getting around it, it is quintessential cheeseball eighties. I think it has held up in the sense that it is still talked about, still quoted, still spoofed in pop culture. For being an iconic movie of the eighties, it stands with a select few. Many people think Footloose when they think of eighties entertainment.

Do you have any mementos from the experience such as set photos, a script, or anything from the set?

I do have a few things. I have a script, pictures. It was really fun to pull them out. I actually used my Footloose script to teach myself to write in screenplay format. At the time I was not aware of the differences between a script and a shooting script.

Do you have clippings from 1980s magazine/newspaper interviews/profiles?

I don’t.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

It was really out of the blue. My brother called me. I think you had sent him an email in February. He had forwarded it to an email I hadn’t used since 2003. I’m happy to answer questions about the experience [but] was surprised that anyone had any interest in it.

How do you look back on your Footloose experience?

Very fondly. It was a great experience. It is magical to know that you were a part of something that blew up the way that that movie did.

If the experience changed your life in any way, how?

It could have changed my life. When the movie was a hit, my parents were contacted by one of the bigger talent agencies in Hollywood. My mother had planned to drive my sister and me down to L.A. to meet with them. At the last minute, my parents decided that they didn’t want Hollywood kids, they just wanted kids. We continued to act locally, but never anything big. I am actually so thankful for that decision. I hear a lot of scary stories about child actors from that particular generation and it makes me so glad I was never subjected to that. My father passed away suddenly in 1989. I feel I got a lot of time with him that I couldn’t have gotten if we had traveled down that road. So I guess my answer is no, but it was for the best.

Collecting Guitars

Jake Peavy With Tiger
Tiger, Jerry Garcia’s main axe between 1979 and 1989.
It may sound like rock-opera fiction, but it happens: Weekend Warrior hits garage sale and buys dusty old Fender guitar for $50 (or, cleans attic and finds the Gibson he bought in high school for $100). He visits a guitar shop in “Antiques Road Show” fashion — and discovers the “beat-up axe” is a vintage collectible, worth $10,000. Or $20,000. Or $100,000.Â
The vintage guitar market has declined like other investments in this recession. But if you have cash to seed a small collection, why not start a fun hobby that’s financially savvy? After all, when your 401K takes a beating, you’re broke. When your vintage guitar takes a beating, it may continue to appreciate anyway, just because it looks so cool. Besides, who ever plugged a stock portfolio into a Vox amplifier and woke the neighbors?Â
I tapped a veteran vintage guitar expert, Wayne Sefton, owner of Midwest Buy and Sell in Chicago since 1990, for tips on what to look for when building your own collection. (His Web site is being revised; visit his MySpace page Sefton has sold instruments to Wilco, Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie. And in a (now only available via an old Geocities link), I rated Wayne’s shop as Chicago’s coolest and friendliest, along with Terry Straker’s Guitar Works in Evanston, Ill.Â
Here are Wayne’s five tips for starting a valuable vintage guitar collection on a budget — in this case, less than $5,000 per instrument, usually 10-years-old or more.

1) Buy brands collectors love. Sefton says and are heritage brands bound to rise in value. Rickenbacker (played by the Beatles, Byrds and Tom Petty) are a bargain because even the rarest often sell for under $5,000. “They’re great American-made guitars,” Sefton says.) Avoid overseas brands.
2) Beware eBay. Guitars get bid into a frenzy there. “There’s also a lot of shill bidding going on,” Sefton warns. “They’ll start stuff at $2,000 you can easily buy for $1,500 elsewhere.” Plus, you can’t pick up and play the guitar if it’s halfway across the country.
3) Get an honest appraisal. Guitar Center chain stores can’t do it; they may even try to give much less than your attic axe is worth. But guitar genius George Gruhn of Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville does appraisals  for the bargain price of $50. Many (including this writer) think Gruhn’s is the best in the business, and so does Sefton. “I’ do written appraisals for free, but that’s because I’m a nice guy,” he says, laughing.
4) Inspect for cracks, replacement parts and playability. A re-glued neck, refinish, or new tuners can drive a guitar’s value down, Sefton says. If the guitar is all original and “mint,” that’s great. But so are older Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls with that “road-worn” look. “Make sure the neck is good and playable,” Sefton adds.
5) Relationships matter. Sefton takes time to educate and advise his customers, steering them toward smart investments. (Instruments I’ve bought on his advice have appreciated up to 300%.) “Get to know who you’re dealing with,” Sefton says, noting that a dealer wanting your money is far different from a dealer earning your loyalty.
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