Posted by Spencer Koch | Posted in Entertainment Guide | Posted on 27-05-2011
Tags: Jim, Jim Messinas
Musician of note Jim Messina, a resident of the 805 but not Ventura County, although he used to live in Oak View, will play country rock in the city of Ventura this Memorial Day weekend.
Pretty certain to be in no danger of running out of songs, Messina will bring his vast and weighty repertoire and tight band to Watermark. The first show is already sold out.
Messina was lucky enough to have been in L.A. during one of those times when the music was really good — back in those silly ’60s.
Before he made his mark on stage, Messina was a producer and engineer and worked on “Buffalo Springfield Again,” the group’s second and best album. Messina later joined the band. With three of the originals still at it, Buffalo Springfield will play in L.A. and Santa Barbara in June (June 4-5 at the Wiltern and June 7-8 at the Santa Barbara Bowl).
When the Buffalo band broke up in 1968, Messina and Richie Furay started Poco. If the Byrds invented folk rock by electrifying Bob Dylan songs, Poco helped put country rock on the map with their debut album in 1969.
For many years, Messina also was the “& Messina” part of Loggins & Messina, purveyors of mellow soft rock and sellers of many albums. Their hit-packed songbook included “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “Thinking of You,” “My Music” and “Watching the River Run.”
Not surprisingly, Messina had plenty of tales to tell. Here’s how all that came down.
The singer-songwriter will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday (the show is sold out) and 4 p.m. Monday at Watermark, 598 E. Main St., Ventura. Tickets cost $35. For reservations or more information, call 643-6800 or visit watermarkonmain.com. Messina’s website is jimmessina.com.
Messina also is slated to perform 5 p.m. Saturday on the main stage during Topanga Days, 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. Tickets are $20. The three-day music and arts festival will continue on Sunday and Monday. Call 310-455-1980 or visit topangadays.com.
———————- Contributed photos Jim Messina strikes a pose during his Buffalo Springfield Days. He engineered the group’s “Buffalo Springfield Again” album in 1967 and then, a year later, assumed the role of producer on their final record, “Last Time Around.”
So, Jim, you’re in the 805? Where are you?
I live up here in the Santa Ynez Valley.
That’s pretty mellow, right?
We’re OK here. We get the occasional guy that shoots his wife or shoots himself, but fortunately, we have a great eclectic group of Hispanics, Indians and used-to-be-skinny Italians like myself. It’s mellow up here — I like the people.
I know Ron Colone. He does the Tales from the Tavern gigs.
Oh, yeah. Ron is a dear friend.
And his brother is a fire hazard — Michael On Fire. So what’s the latest with you?
Well, I’ve been wanting to get out there for a number of years ever since Kenny and I did our tour in 2005. We were in Hawaii and my wife accidentally got pregnant with our baby girl, so I stayed off the road in 2006 and 2007. Then, Kenny and I were planning another tour in 2008 but decided to wait, and in 2010, I had trouble with my agent, who had quit over Christmas. So I only got a chance to tour a little bit.
This year, I just finished signing with the Buddy Lee Agency out of Nashville and I think they’re going to be great for me because they do country and pop and contemporary. They know that market, and I think my music hits to that audience that is more country / country rock-oriented. I’m looking forward to it — they’re going to be great.
What’s the difference between country and country rock?
The difference is that country music used to sound like country music in 1967, and rock ‘n’ roll sounded like it did, and now country music sounds like country rock — it finally caught up to what Richie and I were trying to create back in 1968.
Do you ever bump into your namesake on the road anywhere?
Which one is that?
Jim Messina is a staffer for President Obama.
Oh, no, I haven’t, but my attorney got an email from him the other day. He started reading it and said, “What the hell is Messina talking about?” Then he realized it was a different Messina.
There’s got to be a song in there somewhere.
Maybe we can get him on stage with us. I don’t know if he can sing
This will be a preview for your Ventura show. Have you had prior adventures here in the past?
Back in the past I played at the Crowne Plaza that used to be the Holiday Inn — that series they had there was really super.
Yeah, with the revolving top floor.
I used to live in Oak View, but I never played in Ojai because I usually don’t like to play where I live. It makes me too visible where I don’t want to be, and people that see you all the time aren’t going to want to come and see you.
So I haven’t been there for a long time and, hopefully, people will be curious.
I’ve got some great musicians — a few that are actually from Ventura. George Hawkins grew up in Ojai, which is where I first met him back in ’75 or ’76. Kenny and I hired him to play bass. He did the last year with us and went on to work with Kenny for a number of years. I lost touch with him, and about two years ago I needed a bass player that could sing, and by chance found out where he was in Nashville. We’ve become dear friends again. It’s better now than when we were younger and had a lot of oats to sow.
So George is with me — he’s living in Ventura — and Craig Thomas was with me on “Oasis” in 1979 when I did this kind of Latin rock album; he’s joining me on this particular run. He’s just become nicer and nicer over the years and I appreciate our friendship and he does a fabulous job.
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You were on the other side of the soundboard before you were a performer. How was that a good thing?
I was hired by Glenn Edwards, a DJ on KEZY at the time. I guess he saw something in me because he hired me to come down right after high school and produce some albums with him, which I did and enjoyed, so I decided to become a recording engineer.
Having a producer tell me what they wanted or ask me how to do something was a great experience because it was a challenge to get a sound or feel for what someone was trying to do. I found myself time and time again showing the producer what to do, and eventually I thought, “Why am I doing this? Why don’t I do this for myself?”
So it’s been a wonderful experience having been a producer and an engineer, and eventually producing Buffalo Springfield, Poco and Loggins & Messina. They were all very different but all great experiences during which I had to change hats many times.
And now Buffalo Springfield is back?
Yeah, three of them are together — Stephen (Stills), Neil (Young) and Richie (Furay) — and I think that’s great. I don’t know personally what was going on. I was very young — 19 when I was producing that record — but I never saw any bickering or fighting or cussing or swearing.
Neil was a gentleman and I enjoyed working with him. He was a little impetuous, but he was focused; the worst thing I ever saw him do was smoke cigarettes. Richie was a sweetheart. They were just all young guys focused on their music, so I actually saw them quite differently from what was really going on. I really wasn’t interested in the drama — I didn’t even know what drama or paranoia was in those days. My focus was on getting the record done. They used to call me “Mr. Straight Ahead.”
Somebody’s got to do it.
Yeah, and I wasn’t interested in anything other than getting it finished. So I think it’s healthy for the three of them to spend some time as brothers and have some fun.
What was it like being in the middle of the L.A. music scene when there were so many good bands?
There were many, many good groups. In fact, when I first moved to Hollywood in 1965, I was going to tear a new hole in that place, but by 1966, realized I wasn’t that good, so that’s why I decided to start engineering. I worked for these two guys from Shreveport, La. — Al Jones and Sonny Jones — and their sister, who was well known as the wife of the late Hank Williams, and also Johnny Horton.
Yeah, “North to Alaska” and the “Battle of New Orleans.” I remember that dude.
They came from an area of Shreveport where there were some brilliant musicians — James Burton, Joe Osborn — and I managed to meet and record all those guys plus Terry Allison, Keith Allison and the Crickets, Roger Miller and Dorsey Burnette. It was just a rich, rich time for me — something that I could never, ever imagine to have the opportunity to have done.
Those were the days. So where do you suppose Poco fits into the rock ‘n’ roll cosmology?
Well, they are probably the hardest-working group of guys I’ve ever known, and I think of Rusty (Young) as sort of the Gila monster of rock. He bit into the scene and didn’t let go. And God bless him, he finally got a hit with “Crazy Love,” which was just a wonderful tune.
The group was the beginning point, as was Buffalo Springfield, for a lot of us to sharpen our teeth, and Poco is a perfect example of a group that has gone through many, many, many changes.
I don’t know where it stands right now. I do know that Rusty wanted to retire, but this new fellow that came in has a lot of energy. It’s a whole different band from when I was there. Timmy’s (Schmidt) not there. Richie’s (Furay) not there. George (Grantham) went to work for Vince Gill. Paul Cotton replaced me back in 1970 and I can’t believe that he’s been there for 40 years.
So he’s the new guy?
Yeah, he was. There has been a lot of movement in the band and it was fun getting back in 1989 when we got the original band together. It was just nice to see those faces again.
And Loggins & Messina did OK. What was it — 14 million albums?
I think we did about 20. L&M did really well, and the reunion we did in ’09 was even better. We took the music that the guys had done in the first group and not only played it extremely well, but they added something to it and kind of brought it up to modern times. They were just phenomenal players.
You’ve been doing this for a while. How do you survive on the road?
First of all, I don’t do drugs. If I did, I’d die after the first pill. I liked to smoke pot when I was younger, but it made me paranoid and none of my mixes sounded good, so I gave that up. And alcohol makes me sick and I throw up, so
You’re such a cheap date.
I’m a cheap date, and I bring my wife and my little girl and the dog and the cat. We have a bus and plenty of movies and
Your cat travels?
Wow, most cats would rather get a vacuum cleaner for Christmas than go bye-bye.
Well, you have to just get in there and do it. At first, Old Joe didn’t like it, but after a while, he calmed down and stayed in the backroom. He’s old, so that helps.
What was your strangest gig?
I think the strangest gig I ever played (was) the Atlanta Pop Festival back in 1968 or ’69. Jimi Hendrix played and there was an incredible bill. The police were afraid to go in because they hired the local Georgia bikers to do the security and everyone had a .357 Magnum strapped on and a shotgun strapped to the back of their bike. The good news is, nobody acted up.
Can you touch upon that elusive transcendental power of music?
It’s an excitement, and as a musician who creates music, I don’t think much about dancing. But people who are on the other side of that — it strikes a chord in their view, and the energy and excitement of it all and the melodies just allows some people to let go. It’s kind of a cheap drug when you stop to think about it.
And the cops can’t bust you for it.
You can’t get busted for having fun, but I do like the fact that a song can touch a person enough to move them emotionally. I think that’s the construct of how it works.
For CD reviews and more show previews, view Bill Locey’s “I Love Locey” videos in the Media Player section of The Star’s website, vcstar.com. Email Locey at firstname.lastname@example.org.