An interview with Bernie Worrell
Bernie Worrell, April 19, 1944 – June 24, 2016
Marcus Miller (sax)
An interview with Bernie Worrell
Music is therapy. Music is meditation. Music is an exercise in discipline.
But most of all music is freedom.
Music has the same color as the air. You can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears.
If you play it well,that’s the only thing that matters.
Kat Dyson performing at the She Rocks Awards in 2017
Being a young Southern girl I of course had to learn to play the piano. The boys got guitars and drums and it seemed much more fun. They were out on the porch playing,having a ball. I wanted one! My mother got me a guitar, and not long after she passed away from an aneurism...And I will play guitar until I leave this world.
We didn’t have a piano in our home. I grew up in a small rural neighborhood with a great piano teacher, and I had to go to practice at the teacher’s house. The boys were learning and listening to records and radio.The guitar just seemed far more accessible.
The first time I played a gig and made money in a club is where I realized that I could have fun AND get paid. “I can do this and make money?” I got much more than my weekly allowance. I’m the oldest of seven siblings so I fell in love with the group dynamics of a band.After high school,I went to university and formally studied classical voice and guitar and music education.
The professional female musicians I've worked with share a similar feeling as I did growing up playing music-that they had to be twice as prepared,driven and focused to be taken serious in the music industry.I think we,as women, bring heart and soul and patience, and there isn't a big of competition between us. We are focused yet enjoy playing. Our hearts and ears are open and open for suggestions as well.
A lot of organizations will hire a woman for the optics. If she looks good the- wow-wow!! You have to look good in the industry, but you need to know how to play too, although some organizations may not care about their skill set.
Sharing an anecdote or two I was working with Colin James, who was a protege of Stevie Ray Vaughan He traveled to work for SRV saying “I’ll be your tech for free,just teach me...At one point. I was backstage with Colin and an incredible group of artists at the end of a festival, and among them was B.B. King. He shook my hand and my hand disappeared in his gigantic hand. He let my touch Lucille. He seemed to have telephone wires on that guitar. You had to manhandle that thing. He was about make a speech at a college where he was to be honored, and he asked me 'What am I going to tell them'? perplexed by the invitation.He was so down to earth and so gentlemanly . I asked him “Don't you know who you are to us? He was talking to me like a daughter...supercool!
I was introduced to Bernie Worrell by Felicia Collins. The recording session with him was like a big party, but he was cool and serious ..and so focused, with a spirit so free. He said “Do what you feel – just make it funky!
I am selective about answering Prince questions.Usually I can sense if they come from a good place or not.
When I first met him,he asked me who I listen to. I told him that I listened to Jeff Lee Johnson and John Scofield ,for example at the time, and to Wes Montgomery as a constant go-to,melodically.
The Emancipation album was finished by then, but after we had worked together for a while he let me record a guitar part on The Love We Make, and he didn’t change a thing about it. He trusted my voice ...
What he did on stage depended on his musical vision for each tour and changed constantly. He rotated instruments,as he mastered many. Every band had a different make up and purpose.
At one point he asked me what I thought he should add to the set we were working on.i suggested adding an unplugged section;just sit with a guitar and do a few songs...He laughed and responded that that would be so boring, but a while later..he finally did it, and people loved it, and he wound up doing a lot of it.
He was influenced as an artist at a time when iconic artists entertained and big productions dominated live concerts. Over the years I think he started to get the message that people simply wanted to hear his music,any way he wanted to present it...in a grand way or in an intimate setting...
Rocksugah performing at the She Rocks Awards
Right now my band ROCKSUGAH will be the house band at the She Rocks Awards 2018 at the NAMM Show with Divinity Roxx among others, which we do every year. After that I will do a special Valentine’s show with Gary Taylor and Najee before I go on tour with my Italian boss Zucchero. In March I’m doing the Black Women Rock event (BWR)in Detroit,which is run by Jessica Care Moore.It honors women of color in rock and alternative music. This year we will honor the great Nona Hendryx, whom I can't wait to work with again.We will also bring BWR to the West Coast in May. In April,I take part in the Prince celebrations in Minneapolis .
FIND OUT MORE HERE
Photo: Marc Mennigmann
This year has been a crazy year for me, with my film RUMBLE: The Indians who rocked the world opening, winning at the Sundance Festival and being showed at film festivals all over the world – and with the release of my first Gold record in a long time, Chubby Groove, which I made with Koshi Inaba.
Inaba/Salas with "Overdrive" off their hit album Chubby Groove (2017)
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World - official trailer (2017). Stevie Salas was an executive producer for the film, which was directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana.
It began with me producing tv in Canada in 2006, and a few years ago I started working on my film. 2017 has been a year of touring with the film since it opened, of speaking at my film, and of getting standing ovations and awards for it. HBO have bought it, and it’s on PBS and Amazon Prime. Simultaneously I have been working and touring with Koshi Inaba, who is the biggest ever selling artist in Japan, with over a hundred million records sold. He called me saying that he was uninspired and burnt out, and he asked me if I would come over and write some songs with him. So I flew over to Japan, and I started putting 80s styled funk-tracks together like I did when I lived in London as a kid. We recorded all over the world, and the album features Bernard Fowler and Taylor Hawkins. It was released in January and had sold Gold by March. We also played sold out-shows after that, and stadiums in the summer.
Classic Stevie Salas: "Start Again"
In 2018 I plan on writing for a new Stevie Salas album. I got a phone call from Warner Bros Europe. I might perhaps release something in a limited edition for cool radio stations etc. I am also working on a crime drama for television with Kevin Munroe.
In ways the entire situation with record companies in general, and with social media as something that needs to be figured out for promotional reasons, has me feeling uncreative. Mostly I feel really bad for young people. There is no artist development anymore. When I started out you could be creative and it was encouraged. Record companies developed artists. They would say ‘Take this money and go work with Thomas Dolby, and see what you come up with’. What kids put out now is what would have been demos back then. There is so much crap out there and you can’t wade through it all to get to the good stuff.
A classic combo of great musical chemistry: Stevie Salas and TM Stevens, kicking up a jam together
TM Stevens, whom I worked with a lot (and one of the artists who truly kicked off this platform, Musicians’ Corner) was a force of nature and an elite musician. He had the kind of career where you had to be a musician first to even walk in the room. When I made my first album Joey Ramone walked in the studio, Miles Davis walked in the studio, Bernie Worrell walked in the studio and played on the album. You had to be able to handle being in the same room with anyone and working with anyone, without any preparation. TM could play anything, and make it sound just right, and still make it sound like TM Stevens. That is true mastery. He played on my songs, such as "Tell Your Story Walking" , where TM’s bassline is huge
CHUBBY GROOVE Inaba/Salas is available HERE
"When We Were the Boys: Coming of Age on Rod Stewart's Out of Order Tour" by Stevie Salas with Robert Yehling is available HERE
TM Stevens has contributed two articles to this platform, one of which is his information-packed filmed article "Straight Music Talk". Musicians' Corner and all of our friends are eternal fans of this amazing artist, and will always be humbly grateful for his insightful and generous contributions to this site.
Support TM Stevens: BUY TM STEVENS' MUSIC HERE
We have received a text from one of the amazing artists who got this site started!
Bass legend T.M. Stevens contributed a film to Musicians' Corner in December 2013, and that really meant a lot to the development on this site. (Watch it below!)
Today T.M. shares his thoughts on the year that is about to come to a close and his hopes for the one that is about to begin. And not only that. He also shows us a few pages from his photo album of his colleagues and friends.
" The music business has really changed, in that when I was playing music in the mid 80's and all throughout the 90's, I made a really good living, as the recording session business was really doing great, and the Musicians Union set how much we got paid to record. Some sessions were to overdub, but most of the sessions were playing with full bands and all together. Now and all through 2014, most of the music is all computerized samples and loops, and they don't use real musicians to record those songs, so the music these days sounds very robotic and with no soul.
What caught my ear, is last New Years Eve, I flew to Washington DC and played with the great Dr. John from New Orleans, and just by listening to his left hand on the keyboards, I played about 18 songs with no rehearsal and it rocked, and was all real music. "
Dr. John and T.M. Stevens
" A few weeks ago, I found out that a great friend of mine passed away, and he's a legendary bass player from the famous 60' band called “The Cream”. His name is Jack Bruce, and we both did a jam session together at the Warwick New York Shop, (as we both are Warwick endorsers), and even though it was two basses, it really rocked. "
Jack Bruce ~ , T.M. Stevens and Mordy Ferber
" I also miss Whitney Houston in music. I really miss her and her great talent. "
Whitney Houston ~ , ''So Emotional'' video with T.M. Stevens
" For 2015, I pray with my heart and soul that REAL MUSIC WILL COME BACK, AND REAL MUSICIANS WILL PLAY TOGETHER AGAIN WITHOUT COMPUTERS AND LOOPS. Thank You Maria & Musicians' Corner..”T.M.” "
With Richie Kotzen, Will Calhoun
With Clarence Clemons ~ and band
With Stevie Wonder
With Bernie Worrell, DeWayne 'Blackbyrd' McKnight and Cindy Blackman-Santana
With Sheila E
With Doug Wimbish and Jeff Berlin
With Ricky Lawson ~
With Mfa Kera and band
With Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins
To watch T.M. Stevens 45 minute long film for Musicians' Corner, made in December 2013, and full of timeless and priceless information