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THE MAGIC OF MENTORS—No one makes it alone.


STEVE MILLER

What can I say about the value of great mentors. Steve Miller is one of those guys who has literally done it all. He is one of the smartest human beings on the planet.Talk about a mentor!!! From The moment I met Steve I was asking questions, I am always curious as to how successful people did it. no one can deny Steve Miller has been wildly successful.

The way we met was funny. I was living in Idaho and Was working in Atlanta with the WCW wrestling Band Living in Sanity. I had written a song with a drum machine, Piano, Guitar and slide solo that was a lot like a pink floyd kind of Sound. The song was very personal to me and I wanted to get it to Steve and see what he thought.

I had played Soccer on saturdays with singer Peter Cetera and some other mutual friends, as a goalie (I was way too fat to run around like Peter and Amos Galpin) and I asked Peter where Steve Lived because I wanted to get this song to him. I got directions and right after the Game and headed to Mr. Miller's House.

I pulled up to the Gate and there was a Buzzer with a speaker there. I pushed it and a voice asked what I wanted. I said I was here to see Steve Miller and had a tape for him. The Voice was Steve's but he acted like he was someone else. He said "Here's a PO box in town and just mail it there. If he likes it you will hear from him." So I went right to town and mailed it to him. Didn't hear anything for almost a month and then out of the blue my phone rang and he said come on out and lets talk. So I drove out there and this time the massive gate moved when I rang the buzzer.

Now, I am a HUGE fan of this man, still am, in fact more than ever. I was nervous as hell and wasn't sure what was going to happen but I was going to do this no matter what. So I pulled up to the main house and out came Steve from the front door and he shook my hand and invited me in. The look on his face was incredible. I had forgotten to wear my bandana that day and what you don't know, I was "in-character" for my wrestling persona, "Dr. Squash". I had a ZZ Top beard with a 4 inch high Mohawk and hair down past the middle of my back. That, and I towered over Steve and outweighed him by several hundred pounds... He must have thought I was some kind of character from a "Mad Max" movie. But nonetheless he took me in and Introduced me to Kim his lovely wife and led me to the kitchen and the huge table where we sat and talked.

I was seriously blown away to be there with my hero and have him be so kind. He handed me a bottle of water and had me write my name on it. He then took me to the studio and we sat and listened to my tape. at the end of it, he turned to me and said "this is what Pink Floyd's last record should have sounded like". A comment he would make years later on the Jimmy Kimmel Show when Mick Foley who was also on the show, asked Steve about meeting myself and Maxx Payne. What an honor to have that said by Steve on national TV. He would call me up when he wasn't touring and we would get together and hang out and play guitar. He later took country guitar lessons from me. He loves all music and he taught me to be very focused on getting recordings just right and making things sound good when they were recorded. He is a master at recording and really makes fantastic records.

Later on I got to engineer for him at the house and helped him with recording demos. Great fun! I listened to everything he said and I still apply those things to all that I do in this business. His biggest thing he tried to instill in me was always be forthright, upstanding and honest in the way you do this business. A real deal happens easily when you apply those ethics. He taught me to watch for land mines in the playing field of the music business. I cant tell you how many times he has saved my bacon on a deal. Many times when I ran my school for the kids in Idaho, money would show up in the account and while he will never take credit, I have always known the truth. He is a sweetheart of a person with a heart as big as Texas, especially for struggling artists and kids.

Steve's story is flat out amazing. He is a genius at marketing and publishing. His vast knowledge is what I call the SMAM method. (stands for Steve Miller Approved Methods). He has always taken the time to walk me through deals and explain the reality of the business, something I will never be able to pay him back for. His mentoring has been a real eye opener for me. This is a business and no one knows that better than Steve. He came up in the 60's and is still a force today, selling out venue after venue... He keeps things simple and very straight ahead. Thats what I love about him the most–he does not change. The man is "rock-solid" and he and his wife Kim are family to me and my family. Steve has taught me so much about the publishing end of things and also about putting things together. He is very methodical and always has a long range plan in place.

Mr. Miller, I am forever in your debt pal, I promise to pass it on...Tell Kim I am waiting for my goat cheese bisquits! Love you both dearly...

 

CHET ATKINS

Chester Burton Atkins, This man was a father figure to me and really took me under his wing when I was in my early 20's and was always there for me right up till his death. Again, a mentor of epic stature. We were riding in the car one day in Nashville, going to lunch at Cracker Barrel on Harding in Nashville, when he looked at me and said "How would you like to take a quantum leap?"

I said, "Chet, I don't know what that means, but if your offering I am taking it!"

He smiled that sly little smile and said "ok then we will start today" And so it began. Before I would do any kind of contract or deal I would always call Chet and run it by him. He would never really tell me "yes" or "no" on a deal but instead he would give me examples of what he had done or been through then he would just say, "Well, if your gonna do it, be sure and give it your all so you know you did the best you could". He was a prince of a guy and on one hot August afternoon, I walked the 4 blocks to his office from my house on 12th Ave and sat down, pissed off at the record label I was dealing with.

He listened to me bitch about this, that and the other, all the while holding his Gibson "Chet" Model with nylon strings, quietly fingerpicking while I ranted and raved, then after I gave him a second to interject, he softly said, "Bear, You can't cross the river on the back of an alligator and then be mad at it when you get to the other side and it bites you in the ass. Son, its an alligator"... then he just started playing again...We both smiled and I was thankful I had a "voice of reason" to turn to.

He was very ill toward the end of his life and was down because of the cancer and how debilitating it had become. I knew he was a big fan of Bruce Willis. I was working for Bruce at that time in Idaho as his "house sound man". I called Bruce and asked if he would call Chet and cheer him up a bit, which he so kindly did. Well about 2 hours after that I got a call from Leona and she thanked me for setting that up. I told her how much I loved Chet and what a great guy he was and how I loved him like a father. She said to call back in an hour and Chet would be back up and we could talk.

So I did call back and Chet was so happy and excited!

For the first time in all those years of being with him he was telling me what a thrill it was to talk to Bruce. He was a huge "Diehard" fan and loved Bruce's movies. At the end he thanked me for doing that and said it was a pinnacle moment for him. It dawned on me that no matter who you are in life, we all have heroes. Chet was mine. One of his was Bruce Willis. He was kind of a quiet guy and I never knew that he was SUCH a fan. You learn something new everyday.

He called me a month or so before he died and told me that this would be the last time we would talk. He told me that since he couldn't play guitar anymore it was sure making it hard to go on. I asked if there was anything I could do for him and he said "Well, its funny you should ask. I would like you to do me one small favor if you would be so kind... I want you to give away what I have given you. All the knowledge, the wisdom, the humor, all of it. Make a difference in someones life by being a mentor. Give it 5 solid years of your life and see what happens. You will think you are not making a difference but after its all said and done you will see that you did".

I promised him I would and thats when I started Western States College in Gooding, Idaho. I think we made a difference there. 186 kids went through my classes on "Music Business 101", "Filmmaking with Vito Giambolvo", "Recording 101" in our Pro Tools studio and concerts, "Acting", etc...We let the kids create and set their minds free. In the process they all mentored me too. Thank you Chet for asking me to do that.

The lives we touch in the process of this journey is amazing and he made such an impact on mine. I will always consider my pinnacle moment being when I first met Chet and he was kind and gentle with me after I totally screwed up a booking for him. John Knowles was along for the ride on that gig that day. We had a limo and went to Wendy's for lunch in the limo...Simple and down to earth. I have many stories of Chet's kindness and his willingness to help others, this town is full of folks he helped and gave his assistance to. He rented an apartment for me when he learned I was homeless and living in my car. I know many others with the same story. I will be forever grateful for his allowing me in his circle. I promise to keep passing it on Chet....

 

SCOTTY TURNER

Scotty Turner (who passed away in 2009) was not only a mentor and pal, but one of those enigmatic characters that you just wanted to spend every minute with you could. The man was one of those guys who in one breath could be talking about writing with Buddy Holley, then start into another story about working with Audie Murphy the most decorated war hero in recent history then blow your mind with the recordings of it!!! He never threw away anything and hanging with him was always an education in the music business.

Few knew more and sadly this will probably be a situation where a lot of history is lost to time now that he is gone. Although he did sit with a tape recorder for years and put a lot of it to tape, these are an invaluable look into the REAL music history. He was a major player in all of it.

Truly a funny man, I met him through Chet Atkins. Scotty And Chet were best friends and I remember the day I met him he was very quiet and was giving me the "once over", then he cocked his head sideways and smiled that funny smile that let you know you were sitting with greatness. We became instant pals in 1982 and were until his death. This man could make you laugh so hard you would about piss your pants. He had the best collection of Board tapes from all genres of music. From Buddy Rich firing his band to Julie London drunk in a session, Scotty had a library like no other! One day he asked me and Chet to go to his condo and look at some guitars he had. Chet looked at Scotty and said "Christ' Turner! I am not wading through your house to see a guitar. Take Bear over there and show him." I had no idea what I was about to see. Scotty looked at me when we got to the door and said " The cleaning lady didn't come this week" again his humor was the best I have ever encountered. His ability to tell a story was legendary. We entered the house and I saw that this was going to be interesting, I found a path that was about 20" wide and decided to follow Scotty on this journey through time. He had kept Everything!

In this house I witnessed all of the medals that Audie Murphy had won in WWII and his recording of Audie and he writing and playing around. He then brought out one guitar after the other each one more rare than the last. He had the very first prototype of the Stratocaster, the first Fender Jaguar. All these guitars were the original Prototypes! My head was swimming getting to play these guitars, then he brought out the "animal" the guitar he played on "Unchained Melody" for the Righteous Brothers. I got to play them all that day. He then took me into another world by playing me cuts that no one had ever heard from Julie London, Elvis, Del Reeves, Hank Williams and so many more... He told me that he had boxes of this stuff and that he would someday preserve it all for a museum. He was a national treasure. truly a wonderful man.

One day Scotty came to my office in the Buddy Lee Building and he sat in the chair across from my desk quietly drinking coffee and listening to me try to book shows. I had barely hung up the phone when he said, "Hey Micheal, I have a cool idea..." The twinkle in Scotty's eye was such that I knew he was up to no good. He said I have a buddy named Jim Cartwright who looks and sounds just like Elvis. So I loaded into his Chrysler convertible and we went to Jim's office. Jim is a great guy who sounds more like Elvis than Elvis did! He indeed looked just like him as well, it was freaky! Jim and I hit it off as soon as we shook hands. Scotty then took over and orchestrated what may have been the start of the whole "Elvis is Alive" campaign. He had me call The Sun in London and ask for a reporter who was very skeptical, until Jim starting speaking and sounded so much like Elvis the reporter starting buying into it! How Jim kept a straight face and answered the questions is beyond me. Scotty and I were laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. I have so many memories of Scotty that were just plain good fun. He was at once a joker then a serious producer/engineer, a historian, friend to all and generous to a fault. He would loan people these rare instruments like someone would loan a power tool to a pal. He was incredible that way. I will strive to be like him for the rest of my life. From that relationship came a 25 year friendship with Producer Jim Cartwright who shares my love of mentors as Scotty was his partner for 23 years in publishing and as his mentor... Life is fun if you let be...

 

BRUCE IGLAUER

Bruce Iglauer has been a pal and mentor since we recorded the CJ CHENIER CD "THE BIG SQUEEZE" Together in 1996. We hit it off as soon as we met and I did my impression of the "old guy" by pulling my pants up to my nipples.

He is one of the smartest people In the music business and has really been a leader in saving the genre of Blues Music. He started out in the trunk of his Car selling record to blues lovers. His work with Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Howling Wolf etc, is legendary.


A serious producer, Grammy winner, good Thai food loving Chicago record man, he has turned Alligator Records into the largest blues Label on earth. His drive and passion are legendary, his pursuit of REAL blues, roots music and genuine delta sounds are equalled only by his love of family and friends.

Bruce Is a truly great guy who has taken the time to mentor others and help out along the way.

For him this is all about the music. In a genre that is often overlooked for all its influence on every other form of music, the Blues and Alligator records holds steady to the music and culture that it sprang from. The blues players today owe a lot to this man and in many ways he serves as the grand marshall of all things blues. He has a catalog of blues songs that will live forever in History thanks to his pioneering spirit and his love of recording.

All of these traits were not lost on me as we have worked together on many levels. First and foremost he is my buddy, but he is also a teacher and mentor.

Thanks Bruce, Lets keep it going. Shave and a haircut 2 bits!

 

HAL KETCHUM

My Buddy Hal Ketchum is one of those guys who can sing a label on a can of soup and make you cry because it sounds so good. We have been family for 20+ years and more like brothers than friends. At times we lost touch over the years and when we would reunite it was like not a minute had passed. I have always been a fan of Hal's but for reasons that are different than most. I realized early on in our relationship that he was a very fragile soul who was so sensitive and so tender that he could be hurt easily by things and kept it to himself and instead of lashing out at others he would turn it inward. He never wanted to hurt anyone, but himself.

A gifted writer with a wicked good sense of humor and wit, Hal was the coyote, the trickster. He has taught me more about what being an artist means than anyone I have ever met. He is one of the most intelligent people walking the planet and yet for all the wrong reasons looked at himself as a person who was not really that good. He has been there for me in my darkest times and been a faithful friend when I didn't think I deserved any. Mentoring is much more than teaching business principles and such, its also about being human and being able to take your pain and put it down on a peice of paper and then walk in that studio and release that pain and joy onto a medium that people will listen to and relate to. Hal is one of those rare artists who gets that done in the studio and even more so live.

We did a show in Ireland in 2010 that was the most incredible show he and I ever played together. In all the years I have known him, I had never seen him as vulnerable or fragile and that intensity came out in the show. He turned to Johnny Hiland and the rest of the band and said let me sing one by myself. Without a guitar or anything to back him up he began to sing. He sang a song about his grandfather that reduced the crowd to tears, followed by a stunning version of "On the Wings of A Dove" with Johnny Hiland and myself singing the back-ups for him.

I looked over at Johnny and Cody Leppo the drummer during his solo song and we were all in tears listening to the song about his grandpa. Hal has that power to harness the emotions of a crowd and feed it back to them 100-fold. He taught me a lot about not giving up and also about being a passionate loving human being. He loves to read and is up on any subject under the sun. If you engaged him in conversation you better know what you are talking about, he does not suffer fools gladly.

I will always owe him for finally getting me on the path to return to this business with a passion and not being negative about the labels and where the business is at this time in history. We were on tour and I was ranting about the business and how hard it is to break a new artist, etc. etc... He finally had heard enough and said this is a great time to be in the business and that the new music was relating to a new crowd. They are not the traditional songs we all like but the crowds are dictating what they want. The labels just try to find what will stick. He said I had lost the passion I used to have and had become jaded. I took it to heart and the next day got up with a new attitude and a refreshed view on things. I began to look at the labels as partners not the enemy. It turned my life around.

Thank you, Brother Hal. You have been there once again for me. See you once again when our paths cross and we pick it up where we left off. Love ya brother!

 

KEB MO and TONY MANNON



Two great mentors here in this picture, Keb Mo and Tony Mannon. I consider these two to be family to me as well. Both have taught me many things. Kevin Moore is one of the sweetest souls on the planet and can write a song and sing it like nobody else can. But he is also a very caring person who does a lot of things for folks behind the scenes and without any applause for it. I aspire to be like him and hope someday I can be a quarter of the person he is. Kevin really cares about people and made a huge impact with the kids that were in my program in Idaho. He came by and hung out with the kids and got watch them work on projects. That meant the world to these kids in the middle of Idaho to have a star like Keb Mo come in and treat them with such respect. He has no idea what an impact he made in their lives just by coming in. But then he would never take credit for it anyway.

Kevin and I met in Sun valley Idaho in the early 90's. The Sun Valley Center for the Arts had rented my GMC bus for the event so Kevin would have a place to rest before the show. Once I got there the sound company was having trouble with the monitors so they asked me to run those for the show. We became fast friends that day and are still to this day. I am grateful for the friendship and the fun we always have when we get together.

Tony Mannon has been a Professor of Drama for over 30 years at the College of Southern Idaho. He is one of those guys who loves to have fun but when it's time to work he is the first on there and the last to leave. I love his work ethic and his addiction to perfection. He is truly gifted and is also a singer/guitarist in the Phabulous Phakers. He is fearless onstage and will try anything. I learned to be fearless from Tony. If there was a wall in the way, he would walk through it. We played together many times and I watched him entertain like a pro, even though this was just a weekend fun thing for him to do. I respect him immensely and thank him for all he has done for me.

 

 

 
     

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