That's a Larry Hosford story about his collaboration with George back in 1975, hope you'll like it
I tell those who ask, "Sure. Making records is a lotta fun." I don't say it's all fun, but one tends to shuffle memories of the stressful, angst-addled ilk right along to Buffalo. It's only the good times I remember. That being so, I tell those who ask how working with excellent musicians is a joy forever - and for a guy from the Okie side of the tracks in Salinas, CA, I've worked with some exceedingly world-class players. It's a gift, I guess: Ma Nature counterbalancing my own rag-ass musicianship by bestrewing my world with the real deal. Everywhere I go. Lucky Duck Syndrome. Some of these musicians - the more obscure geniuses - you wish you knew, believe me. Some you would know. Some favored few live lofty lifestyles, radically rich and famous.
I tell those who ask, "Most famous guy I've ever worked with? George Harrison. Give me a tough one." I flip out this set reply with studied nonchalance, a casual whut-hasn't-everybody? offhandedness. Showin' off. But you know, I know, they know, everybody-knows-to-this-day - making music with a Beatle is a major coup: socially, certainly; musically, absolutely.
I used to sit out in a Salinas lettuce field with the Wence bros back in the E-Types days, '65-'67, drinking hard cider, playing, singing, and talking Beatle songs. Not so unusual at that time, granted, but the E(nglish)-Types were, after all, a band known as the "Salinas Beatles". We belonged with the raw-meat Beatle freaks: disciples who lamped unto our turntables' feet in analysis of Their Word. We dissected, devoured; we duplicated everything Beatle. We exhausted the Beatle oeuvre. Then again. Then again. George Harrison's stuff was as much a part of my musical education as anyone I could name. It wouldn't be at all fair, though, to censure him for my mega-pathetic way with a guitar lick. 'Fraid that shadow falls at the student's feet. That's why I play rhythm, or sometimes simple bass.
One night out there amongst the row crops - cloaked in the dark obscurities of circumstance and the night - we thought how good 'twould be to someday run into these guys on a more-than-fanship basis to be known to our favorites beforehand. That nifty trick - at least with George - I was fortunate enough to pull off.
In 1975 I was on the roster at Shelter Records, a hip little label owned by Tulsa top cat Leon Russell and the veddy-veddy British Denny Cordell. Okies and Limeys. My producer, Dino Airali, had progressed from the promo department at Shelter (he's the one who broke the first JJ Cale singles) and into the studio scene. Plucking Phoebe Snow out of New York club obscurity and putting together her outrageous debut (gold) album had set him on a roll. Somehow along the way between my first and second LPs, Dino met - and conspicuously hit it off - with George, as he forthwith wound up running George's Dark Horse Records. In a couple of years he rose from Shelter PR to Dark Horse Prez, or whatsoever his title there. Not for rhyme alone did we dub him, "Svengali Airali".
Dark Horse was housed in offices at the A&M studios in Los Angeles. A&M also distributed DH. Dino set up shop with his favorite Gal Friday, Linda Arias, and started moguling-signing acts, wheelin' deals, shining on phone calls. I first dropped by some time that summer/fall, when Dino and I were still imaginating Crosswords, my forthcoming LP #2. I was in and out of there often, making lots of hops to So-Cal from my place in Santa Cruz. This was fairly concurrent with the release of George's Extra Texture album on Dark Horse. I've still got a sizable pile of souvenir "ET" flack someplace around. Recall, "Ohnothimagain"?
I was in Svengali's office typing up song lyrics when my lettuce-field, nighttime daydream came to pass. Unannounced, George one sunny day shambled in with Linda's sister, Olivia Arias. Gorgeous as she was, he was the one who seemed to glow. He was "aurafied"; something shimmery this way comes. His vibratory sheen, real or fancied, I have noted on only one other person: I saw it all around Bobby Kennedy shortly before Sirhan Sirhan shot him dead. Happily, George survived me. (Hmm. Now I'm thinking Charlotte Hickenlooper outshone them both back in grade school, but I'm pretty sure that was a different phenomenon.)
Dino made the intros, and George said, "Hosford - oh yes, with Shelter, isn't it?" What a gas! I knew the Wence boys would be proud of me. George was cool. Chit-chatty. Affable. I bounced into him numerous times that fall, and we got out and festive a time or two and played some songs (although I wouldn't expect to find myself remembered in his will.)
It is not to tell tales out of school to proclaim that George knows his way around a yo-ho-ho-and-a-bottle-of-rum fest. Such proclivities we held in common. And abundance. I'm certain he'd never deny that - as Jaques says in As You Like It - "Yes, I have gained my experience." George could party hearty and was good at it, but I don't recall any bozoity. He was a lot like our own ace Santa Cruz hot-lickster, Ken Kraft, in that regard. And others.
George was working with a new Dark Horse act, Stairsteps, a group from . . . Chicago (?). Soul bros. Young guys. Great guys. One night we were all down yonder checking out pictures and listening to mixes and such. After dusting a few jugs of the good, puffing a few bombers of the bad, the boss ahemed to us a brief speech rife of quasi-propriety that went something like this:
"Listen . . . I wonder-and if the answer's, 'No', just forget I asked, hey? But, I wonder, does... Oh, I shouldn't ask . . . does anyone have perhaps . . . oh, forget . . . .no, if the answer's, 'No', forget . . . but . . . is there, y'know, any...
We're all ears, like, C'mon George . . . spit it out.
" . . . cocaine?"
Well, the answer was no, and I normally would just forget, as he asked, that he asked. But the way we all started slapping at empty pockets hoping for a miracle is just far too memorable. We defined "aiming to please," affirmed George's star-guy, deference-eliciting mechanisms to be still well-oiled and operative.
George had made Dino aware he'd like to do some studio work with his guitar. Dino, sage producer, said, "Let's see your resume." No - maybe that's not exactly how it went. Anyway, George took a liking to my stuff and agreed to pitch in when we got the tapes a-rollin'. I was way happy, calculating up what the Wence bros would kick out for tickets to this event. No - maybe that's not exactly why. But I was happy.
Long about - what? November? December? - we were in full-on recording mode over at the Capitol Studio A in Hollywood with engineer Hugh Davies. I'd done most of the work there with Fly By Night, the group with which I worked back in God's country. When basics, set parts and vocals were pretty much done, we started calling in the guest stars. I loved that part - I'd just sit back cruising, sipping bubbly with ol' Hugh while this parade of primo pickers came and went outside the studio window.
From the Capitol Tower, I checked in with my Christina one evening by phone, asking, "How ya doin'?" She replied, "I'm lonesome, and I'm pregnant." Instantly accepting this as great news, I told Christina I'd arrange for her to wing down the next day, resolving her first problem. The second problem was not a problem. All smiley, I returned to Studio A and informed everyone: "Call me Dad."
As fate would have it, that next night was the one we now refer to as "Famous Night." Christina and our kid-in-the-works got a great show. For starters, Mark Lindsey, the erstwhile lead singer in Paul Revere and the Raiders, had booked up Studio A for the night, so we were next door in Studio B. Leon Russell was first on our agenda; he came in super-hip, snowy hair everywhere, beard, God's little bro, somber, no-nonsense. He maintained his game face 'til he'd effected his customary take-one piano magic and a vibes track on a new tune of mine, "Direct Me." He then dropped his mystique-ish reserve like bad pizza, tossed down some suds, and got to wanking out hard-core honky-tonkers on the Steinway. Everyone joined his afterwork party. Leon can play his ass off, get him goin'. He quickly had that stu hopping like Spike's Rockin' Piano Bar. Then it was George's turn.
He came in sorta like that goose - loose. We "how-goesed" it in the hallway and he disappeared into the john. I told Dino, "Hey now - he's a trifle geezed, Svengali!" Dino went all hushy-shushy with me 'til I explained my stance: "C'mon, you know me, Dino. I just want some of whatever he's having." Man, you'd think a producer would be sensitive to his artist's needs.
And right you'd be.
Dino beamed, clapped his hands, and down a set of stairs came Fly By Night's Annie Hughes, toting a giant tray/bucket loaded up with magnums of Mumms on ice. If guest of honor Christina had doubted my paternal enthusiasms, it was about now she ceased doing so. George reappeared, was put wise to the occasion, and joined in with a jolly good will. Svengali snuck us off to somewhere between Spike's place and the Mother's Day party, and gave us a producerly prepping. Through the door, human fun sensor Mark Lindsey's head popped. His eyes popped. Corks popped. Studio B was the place to be.
When George got down to business, he too was serious about it. These superstar guys have a rep to maintain, after all. He'd done his homework, with a cassette of "Direct Me" Dino had provided. I sat with him behind some studio baffles as Hugh got the sound down and adjusted the headset levels. George had whipped up a smooth, tasty slide thing on his National, and when I heard what he was going for I near to broke out laughing. 'Twas perfect - pure, signature George. He winked at me a sly eye.
When he was satisfied with the sound, he spoke into the mic: "I'm ready now." This brought his Indian cook/valet to our side in a trice. It was bang, bang, boss, bang, bang, me, and, "Let 'er roll, Hugh." As the song went down - George first-taking all the way - I thought of the countless times he had brightened my being with his music, exulting now as he brightened my music with his being. I truly hope everybody in this world will at least once in their life have cause to feel so special.
Having accomplished his trick as quickly as had Leon, George now as quickly let down his hair. He joined the Fly By crew at Spike's Rockin' PB, their revelry having scarce been interrupted by his speedy stint at the mic. We should have recorded the piano bar: all those choice vocalists adorning Leon's 88s as birds do the dawn. When Leon and George asked, "Got anything else, Hos?", it was easy to say, "But yes! Let's sing one."
Hugh readied "Wishing I Could," and we began to work it up in three parts at the piano like George "used to do with the lads." Leon, Tulsa timin' in LA, advanced an urban-campfire ambiance and got pretty dust-bowly with it. Put him to mind, he said, of Lefty Frizzell. When George heard these lyrics about conversing with a very pretty girl . . .
Wishing I could ain't the answer,
Whether I should ain't the question,
And it ain't just a matter,
Of excess nervous tension...
. . . he demurred candidly, saying, "But that's exactly what it is!" Wise ass.
As we circled a mic to record this vocal, my instant backup duo - realizing they hadn't sung together since the Bangladesh concert - began harmonizing on "Just Like A Woman." Such a session. What with the "Call Me Dad" factor, the "Famous Night" factor, and the various pursuits of happiness available, I wasn't sure if I was Larry Hosford, a Beatle, or Bob Dylan. I love my job.
We got it down. Nobody went anywhere; Studio B was still the place to be. After we'd got our tracks done, we all fell out to watch the final player do his schtick. This was Tom Scott, La-La Land's sax-flute-etc man par excellence, a wizard I'd also encountered a few times at Dark Horse, though his presence at the session was another Dinoism. I didn't fully grasp 'til that night what a hotrod Tom was, only that he was friendly, smart, and had a few hip jokes up his sleeve. George and Leon knew him well, of course, and after a bit of chumsy by-play sat right down to hear him blow.
Me too. In the control booth with Hugh, Svengali, Christina, et al, I was the consummate glad lad. Tom put a clarinet down, quick, on one cut, and commenced upon another with his flute. But this didn't seem to go so smoothly for him, and I have always suspected good-guyness played a part in his difficulties. He'd got wind that he was supplanting Annie Hughes on this tune - she who did it quite well herself. I'd somehow deemed her flute-ably unsuitable, her utile tootability futility: unincludable. Fine on stage, but not on this recording. Ann, understandably, was sorta hurt, sorta bummed. I'm sure Tom picked up on this and poo-piffled his way through the piece, mug-puzzled, all inadequacy in diplomatic consideration of various tender psyches. He is, as I say, a good guy.
Leon - savvy judge of sensitive energy, and pragmatic - chimed in with an out. He leaned over to say, "Y'know, if you're gonna have a famous guy on your album, y'oughtta have him play his famous instrument." So ended the flute dispute; so, by wise compromise, did Tom's tasty tenor sax find its way onto the song, "Loving You, Like I Do." Me 'n Mom thought it agreeably romantic.
Now, George, like me, like most of us there, was having your 23-skidoo good time. I thought to warn him that his new career as session man could be in fast jeopardy if word got around that he hung out in studios when he didn't have to. Really, George - it's just not done. People get to thinking you pick that guitar 'cause you plain old like to. Hey, this messes with the pay structure; you'll not get rich that way. But sometimes a guy's gotta learn this stuff on his own, the hard way. I kept my counsel, and his company.
I, clearly, feel very good about my opportunity to meet, work, and engage in advanced conviviality with a musician-person I so legitimately admired; still do, though our paths have as yet to cross again. Too, I thought/think it a bonus that I was the first recording artist, since certain of George's prior contractual restrictions had lapsed, to use his actual name in the LP credits instead of his former sideman spoonerism/pseudonym: Hari Georgison. Don't know specially why, just find it specially so. In sooth, he didn't need no steeenking credits - that guitar line on "Direct Me" is manifest, indelible, George Harrison.
George's endorsement of my music meant a lot to me, personally even more so than professionally. His vote, whereas he knows whereof he speaks, counts for more than sundry others, and he tendered up some enlightened positive commentary regarding my songs. I'd like to think my sapient precognitive advice that he ought to scoop up Olivia and do the Dadly thing wore similarly well with him.
We hung in 'til the wee hours, listening to playbacks, winding it down - after a fashion. As I sat with Christina and my friendly, formidable allies near the end of this doubly special night, Leon looked my way, grinned, and summed it up:
"Hosford, your mama's gonna be real proud of you."
"Because there wasn't any reason left to keep it all inside"
- Paul McCartney, 1982