'Feelin' Alright' After All These Years

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Along with the hundreds of weekend warriors roaring into town Sunday for the culmination of Beach Ride '99 will be several classic rockers, one of them local. Lake Casitas resident Dave Mason will perform at the fund-raiser for the Exceptional Children's Foundation at San Buenaventura State Beach, along with bluesman Elvin Bishop, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Crosby and CPR, plus Venice and Population 361.

The 53-year-old Mason has some stories to tell. The British guitar player is often associated with Traffic, but he was actually in several bands before that--the Jaguars, the Sapphires and Deep Feeling, which later became the Hellions. Then, at the ripe old age of 18, Mason, along with Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood, formed Traffic.

A year later, Mason made a brilliant career move when he wrote "Feelin' Alright," a song that has been recorded continually since then and today lives on as part of a Nissan commercial. Traffic with Mason lasted two albums, but the guitarist was in demand with other British rockers and ended up recording with the Stones, several of the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Delaney & Bonnie and Eric Clapton.

Since his Traffic days, Mason has recorded a number of solo albums, several of which went gold. He's pretty much been everywhere and done everything with everybody. With the upcoming gig half an hour from home playing for a horde of appreciative bikers, Mason discussed the latest.

How many Dave Mason albums are there and when can we expect another one?

Good question. About 10 or 11, maybe. I was working on a new album, but I stopped. I'm temporarily putting my career on hold to represent a new, young artist. His name is Damon Lee and he's something special. After my current tour is over in July, I'm going to try to hook him up with Interscope--they're the most happening label out there right now. And if they sign Damon, they'll be even more happening.

How has your music changed from the Jaguars days to today?

More mature, I suppose. My music today is a straight-ahead four-piece band doing Dave Mason stuff. There are songs from different eras, some Traffic stuff, some solo stuff, a little blues.

Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues wrote "Knights in White Satin" when he was 19 and you wrote "Feelin' Alright" when you were 19--good career move or what? Do you get tired of playing that song?

Nope. I'm not tired of playing any of my stuff. There have been 42 cover versions of that song so far, and now it's on a Nissan commercial. Hey, I'm current. I'm now.

What was it like being a rock star in those silly '60s?

I was young. I'd just fallen off the Christmas tree.

Tell me a Jimi Hendrix story.

Well, I can tell you how Jimi Hendrix came to record "All Along the Watchtower." We were all sitting around this apartment in London listening to Bob Dylan's new album, "John Wesley Hardin," and Viv Prince, the drummer for a band called the Pretty Things and a complete maniac, spiked everyone's drinks with LSD. When "All Along the Watchtower" came on, Hendrix said, 'Man, we gotta do that song.' "

How about a Beatles story?

George Harrison gave me my first sitar and I went over to his house and heard "Sergeant Pepper" before it came out. I was there for their recording sessions.

When did you know you wanted to be a musician?

After I went to America with my mother to visit my sister in San Diego in 1955. We went to the zoo and to Disneyland. I heard a lot of stuff over there. In England, we had only one television station and one radio station. Then the Beatles started to get big and I thought, "Hey, I can do that." Also, I heard it's a great way to pick up chicks.

How have you survived all those years on the road?

Stamina and stubbornness, I guess, but I'm getting too old for that crap. I've been on the road for 35 years.

Who goes to see Dave Mason?

You know, because of parents, sisters and brothers, I get people to the shows from 15 to 60 years old.

Have you played for bikers before?

I've survived these biker things before. There will be a lot of weekend warriors there--doctors and lawyers.

What's the best thing about your job?

Music has afforded me the chance to go places I wouldn't have gone to before and to meet people I wouldn't have met otherwise. I have been allowed to do something I love, but I don't get to spend enough time at home.

So whatever became of your accent?

What happened to me accent? (in heavy English accent.) I've lived here for more than 30 years now.

DETAILS

Beach Ride '99 at San Buenaventura State Beach, Pierpont and San Pedro Streets, 10 a.m. Sunday. Population 361 (10:45), Dave Mason Band (11:30), Elvin Bishop (1:15), CPR (2:30) and Venice (4:15); $30; (800) 696-3727.

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One of the photos on Dorian Michael's latest album, "The Way We Dance," depicts the artist all dressed up and apparently ready to serenade his cat. And the acoustic guitar player actually does play cat-friendly music. You can check out Michael at a 7:30 gig tonight at Borders in Thousand Oaks.

Michael has little to fear from an out-of-control mosh pit forming, as dancers are few and far between at his gigs, featuring elaborate acoustic finger style, mostly original mellow guitar songs. Michael plays basically sit-and-stare music--just the right soundtrack for a bookstore or a happy cat all curled up in a little cat ball by the fireplace.

Michael, from Cambria, tours extensively throughout California and the West, traveling light and selling CDs. Borders provides entertainment three to four evenings a week. Saturday night, it's blues from Betty Pattengale and Mike Harris.

DETAILS

Dorian Michael at Borders Books & Music, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, tonight, 7:30. Free. (805) 497-8159.

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If swing is your thing, then Simi Valley is the place to be Sunday night when Vince Trombetta brings his brand of Big Band swing to the Lillian and Stuart Raffel Arts Plaza on the grounds of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute.

Swing dancing started in Harlem at the Savoy Theatre in the late '20s, growing out of ragtime and the Charleston. A further refinement, the Lindy Hop, was named for famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. A few years later, Benny Goodman's music started to get popular.

These days, swing dancing can't get too much bigger, since you and I are probably the last two people that don't know how to do it--OK, maybe you do. Festivities will begin with swing dance lessons at 6 p.m., 90 minutes before the show. Swing dancers will do the Lindy Hop to the classic sounds of Benny Goodman and others your parents and grandparents would recognize. Also on the bill is a taste of Jewish swing as performed by the Brandeis-Bardin International Klezmer Ensemble.

Trombetta, a saxophone player from Agoura, has a resume longer than than one of those endless Kenny G albums. He attended the Juilliard School of Music, the Philadelphia Conservatory and the Philadelphia Musical Academy. Later, Trombetta taught sax at the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts and played on "The Mike Douglas Show" for 17 years. His other television and movie composition credits are longer than this column. Future shows at the venue include Jewish artists Sam Glaser and Julie Silver on Aug. 1, and vocalist Alberto Mizrahi on Aug. 15.

DETAILS

Vince Trombetta Big Band, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, 1101 N. Pepper Tree Lane, Simi Valley; $25; 582-4450.

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