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Lisa Johnson: 108 Rock Star #Guitars @108RSGUITARS by @JMarshallCraig @IndieStardust #Photos #Video #rock #music

By Karen A. Brown and J. Marshall Craig

108 Rock Star Guitars Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson is a photographer to be reckoned with. With her groundbreaking vision she traveled the world to photograph the most exquisite guitars of our favorite rock stars! We sat down with Lisa to get details of her incredible journey with her new book 108 Rock Star Guitars.


Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail and a truly ground breaking vision, Lisa Johnson's guitar art, is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock and roll ride. Far from still life, Lisa's work conjures the abstract, yet also possesses a very sensual and ethereal feel that intentionally illustrates the intimate wear and tear details of the instrument. Her unique presentation undoubtedly personifies the musician and captures their true spirit in these wooden extensions of their own iconic flesh.

I’ve enlisted my buddy J.Marshall Craig to assist me with this interview as he has written both Eric Burdon’s autobiography, “Don’t Let me be Misunderstood” and “Between Rock and a Home Place” with Chuck Leavell.

KAB:  Welcome Lisa! Thank you for joining us today. You’ve been touring with 108 Rock Star Guitars. Finally your own tour! How does it feel? Any wild stories from the road to start us off?

LJ: Well this whole past 17 years of creating the book and now launching it has truly been the ride of my life! My first official book launch event was kicked on in NYC on October 8th (10/8) at the infamous “Cutting Room” and I was thrilled to have the current Les Paul Trio perform at the event with Lou Pallo at the helm. We showcased guitarist Porl Thompson, formerly of The Cure, whose guitar is in the book. And it was indeed super wild that my Father got to play two songs with the Trio. It was the thrill of his life and mine too so see him perform so well.

Brian May’s Red Special PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Brian May’s Red Special
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

JMC: You once worked for Kodak, but not as a photographer, is that correct?

LJ: Yes, I worked as a Technical Sales Representative for Eastman Kodak. My job was to visit professional photographers and the photo labs that serviced them and make sure they were using Kodak products. Most of us at Kodak were also photography buffs and we had to understand our product so we were always testing the films, paper and chemistry we were selling.

JMC: Where did the idea for 108 guitars come from?

LJ: I am a yogi. I teach, practice and study yoga philosophy and the number 108 is a significant number in yoga philosophy. So significant the number 108 has its own page on Wikipedia if you google it! I had traveled to India in 2009 and was staying with my yoga teacher, whose family astrologer came over to give me a reading. I told him I was trying to figure out what I would call my book. I knew I had to be something like “Rock Star Guitars”. He suggested adding the 108 to it and I knew instantly that was it! While I have photographed over 108 guitarists guitars, I thought that was a perfect stopping point and would lend a cosmic element to the book instead of the regular 100 or 101 greatest.

KAB: The angles, the light, the positions you must have placed your body in in order to get the shot you wanted. Tell us about how much of a contortionist you had to be shooting the guitars.

LJ: Yea, well that question brings me back to yoga! It’s true, I have laid on the ground and shot up, and on my stomach and shot across, have crouched in some pretty tight corners to get the shot and definitely used yoga breath, contracted my abs and entire body to get a lot of these shots! I would not say I’m a contortionist, but it has been very helpful to be limber and flexible to get some of these photos.

JMC: Which was the most difficult to photograph ~ and why?

LJ:  Jeff Beck’s guitar shoot was one of the most difficult because of the small space I had to work in. But it was cool because the space was behind a black curtain that flowed perfect with the black background I had laid down. Only problem was that I did not have much room behind me so did not have much leeway to move around at all. I did lay on the floor and shot upwards toward the guitar. It was tough to pull it off quickly and know that I got the shot I wanted that would be creative and interesting, but I ended up being very pleased.

KAB: Which was the most fun to photograph and why?

Roger Waters PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson
Roger Waters
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

LJ: I absolutely LOVED photographing Roger Waters iconic 1970’s Fender Precision Bass in one of the coolest locations ever… directly underneath The Wall, just moments after sound check. It was in Athens, Greece in one of the Olympic Hall buildings, in which I had been in before because I had staffed the Olympics in Greece for Kodak. Prior to the shoot I got to sit and watch the sound check, in which Roger was completely in charge of on stage, orchestrating the children’s choir with The Wall animated films projected on the Wall. Absolutely fantastic moment in the creation of this book.

JMC: Do the guitars have personalities, just like their owners? Did any take your breath away to be right there, photographing?

LJ: They definitely do. Which is why I never ask for the photographers to be in the shot. My work is all about showing the wear and tear details of the guitar that personify the artist without them being in the photograph. The guitars tell a story in and of themselves about the artist by what they leave behind. You can tell a lot about how the guitar is handled and played and they do take on a personality of their own that also portrays the soul of the guitar and perhaps its owner. When we opened the case to Jimmy Page’s 1968 Gibson EDS 1275 SG double neck, it was pretty breathtaking and a whole lotta love and soul emerged out of that case!

Jimmy Page Gibson SG Doubleneck  PHOT: Lisa Johnson
Jimmy Page Gibson SG Doubleneck PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson


KAB: Your book is stunning. Is the final result everything you had hoped for?

LJ: Yes, I am so pleased with how it turned out. Even I have to pinch myself when I look through the pages and say wow I took that photograph! But aside from the imagery, my design team at SMOG Design in Los Angeles did a superior job. They have a real talent for listening to their clients and they masterminded exactly what I wanted.

JMC: What guitar took the longest to get the approval to photograph?

LJ: Jeff Beck and Rick Nielsen! Both held out on me for a long long time. But both shoots were very much worth the wait! I got Jeff’s Fender Stratocaster that has a 1993 Neck affixed to a 1995 Body, and it has a nice bit of tender wear on it. I got a Fender Tele guitar of Rick Nielsen’s I hadn’t seen before at all called the “Rick of Diamonds”, with uber cool crystal work on it, alongside a vintage Les Paul and a couple of his infamous Hamer guitars.

Robby Krieger’s 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar. PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Robby Krieger’s 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar.
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson


KAB: Did any of the guitar owners play an impromptu private show?

LJ: Yes… Robby Krieger came over to my house for the photo session, which was wonderful because I have a great studio here in a controlled environment. As I photographed each guitar, he would play one of the other ones for me. Noteably he started playing Spanish Caravan on his 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar. Michael Wilton of Queensryche also plugged into a little amp after I photographed his skull crushing 2009 ESP MW Custom Signature Model-“Skull Guitar”. Such cool moments in the life of this project!

JMC:  Is there a guitar you didn’t get to photograph that was on your wish list?

LJ:  Many! Angus Young, Mark Knopfler, Pete Townshend, The Edge, Jackson Browne, John Fogherty, and many more were all requested but have not manifested yet.

KAB:  How much traveling did you have to do?

LJ:  I’ve been all over the USA including NYC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Louisiana, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, England, Greece and more. It’s been a fun journey. (see attached fact sheet)

JMC:  What was your favorite ~ and why?

LJ:  One of my favorite shoots was working with Nils Lofgren. He has a beautiful collection of guitars that are all very well worn yet well taken care of and they all have stories behind them. I got to go to Nils home and we spent several hours together photographing his guitars in a huge studio he has made on his property. There is just so much love energy in his presence. His lovely wife, and many dogs and just Nils is a beautiful human being who not only plays for the Boss in the E Street Band, his also has a very impressive catalog of his own solo material. I love the way his guitar images grace the pages of the book, including one acoustic Martin guitar that Neil Young gave to him when he was 17 or 18 years old. Nils has had a wonderful career and I adore him and his music. From what I understand you will see several of the images I took of his guitars on his forthcoming box set that is soon to be released.

JMC:  Les Paul wrote the foreword — tell us about your friendship with Les.

LJ:  When Eastman Kodak transferred me from Memphis, TN to NYC I had already been studying the photographing of guitars for about 6 months or so. When I arrived in NY I knew that I wanted to continue photographing guitars and decided that it may as well be famous ones. I noticed that Les Paul was playing every Monday night at The Iridium Room so I trekked down there by myself with an envelope of prints in my hand to show what I was doing. At the time it was Black and White images that I would hand tint with oils. I sat at the bar at the back of the room and eventually Paul Nowinski, the fiddle bass player in the Les Paul Trio at the time, came over to get a drink. I introduced myself to him and asked if he thought Les would let me photograph his guitar. Paul made it happen and the next thing I knew, I was on the stage photographing Les’s guitar that he had left on the stool he sat on for the shows. The next time I came in, I brought B&W hand tinted prints for Les and I got to personally deliver them to him. The next time he saw me he said “Hey there’s that girl who does that guitar art!” That made me so happy. I would go to Iridium as often as I could while I lived in NY and then after I moved to Las Vegas, I would always make a point to go and see Les when I would return to visit NY. Lou Pallo and Paul Nowinski would always help me out and make sure I got back to see Les. It was always exciting for me to sit and talk with him, and show him my prints of the latest guitars I got. He would encourage me. He told me one time that my images would inspire young people to buy a guitar because of the way my images illustrated how the guitarists would personalize them. He loved to have young people come up on stage and play a song with him. I wish he could see the book now that it is done. I think he would be proud of me. A percentage of the book proceeds will benefit the Les Paul Foundation to help fund music education and the hearing impaired. I had to do that in his honor and especially for being so kind as to write the foreword for the book.

Don-Felder-1959-Gibson-Les-Pau. PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Don-Felder-1959-Gibson-Les-Pau. PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson


KAB: Is there anyone you were particularly starstruck to meet during the journey?

LJ: Well I didn’t get to meet all the artists in the book, but I did meet a lot of them. I’m not really that star struck kind of person. I was so happy to get to meet Nancy and Ann Wilson and got to present a book to them. They are the coolest women in Rock and their music means so much to me. It was a true honor to meet these women who have inspired me so much.

JMC: Do you play guitar?

I can play a few chords! But am really just learning. I have a great teacher in LA who comes out to my house. I can’t wait to shred one day!

KAB: Did you play any of the guitars you photographed?

LJ: No, I never ask to play them, I have so much respect and reverence for the guitar and the opportunity to have access to photograph them that I would never want to overstep my bounds or timeframe I said I could get the session done in. Maybe when I get good enough I will ask!

JMC: Do you choose subjects according to your own taste as a fan?

LJ: For the most part I do. Sometimes I may not be a regular listener of some of the artists, but I have tremendous respect for the work they do. A couple of the guitars in the book were suggested to me by people that said I just had to get this one or that one, but for the most part I have requested artists that I grew up listening to or are listening to now.

KAB: Were the artists there when you photographed their guitars?

LJ: Some were there and those were some cool shoots. Robby Krieger, Nils Lofgren, Steve Earle, Steve Lukather, Mark Farner, Wayne Kramer, Hutch Hutchinson, Kim Thayil, K. K. Downing, Michael Schenker, Porl Thompson and many more guys where there hanging with me during the shoots. So fun!

Ace Frehley: KISS PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Ace Frehley: KISS
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson


JMC: Tell us the Lou Reed story!

LJ: I love the images of Lou’s guitars in the book. I only met him once, after the photo session was done. I got access to his guitars because we had a couple of mutual friends who both went to him and told him what I was doing. So he agreed via communication through them. I went to his house in Manhatten, no one was home, it was just me and his assistant who gave me carte blanche to his guitar room. It was quiet and beautiful with a real art vibe. His was one of the first guitars I ever photographed and I used a very special Color Infrared film that Kodak had made especially for NASA to shoot vegetation from space. It was quite appropriate to use this film on Lou’s guitars. I’m so pleased he got to see the prints before he passed and he posted my favorite image from the set onto his Facebook page just a few days before he passed. Lou’s music and soul was a true gift to the world.

KAB: Thank you so much Lisa. And thank you, JMC! Fabulous interview! If our readers would like to order your book, 108 Rock Guitars, they can order here on Amazon.com Lisa Johnson: 108 RockStar Guitars


108 Rock Star Guitars Deluxe Hardcover – Deluxe Edition

The rich saturation of color in Lisa Johnson’s ground-breaking photographic vision documents not only some of culture’s most important rock star guitars, but also recounts how the instrument itself has become the essential symbol of rock. Her bold use of unusually low depth-of-field photography visually caresses the instrument in the way a skillful musician might – zeroing in on subtle gradations in a guitar’s patina or hugging the curves of another’s silhouette. Johnson accompanies her images with text cultivated from interviews with the proud guitar owners, revealing the personality of the musician who plays the instrument while her images revere the instrument itself. Johnson provides up-close inspection of guitars, including those of Eric Clapton, Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, Rick Nielsen, Brian Setzer, Chrissie Hynde, Ace Frehley, Carlos Santana, Jack White and many others. Here, the guitar is made exotic, sensuous, and evocative – it transforms from an instrument into an artwork.
Includes padded-leatherette hardcover book, 16-page booklet describing inspiration behind project, and black guitar pick printed with one of three holographic foil designs. More at  http://108rockstarguitars.com



Iconic Record Store Bleeker Bob’s is closing

by Karen A. Brown          Tweet me @IndieStardust

First Colony Records, now Bleeker Bob’s, where has all the vinyl gone?

Remember, as a kid, placing the ‘needle’ on a record and ‘feeling’ the sound of each groove, hearing the depth of the layers of all the instrumentation, each vocal inflection, each breath..

At 7, I  had a General Electric portable record player, my first.  I remember sitting for hours on end writing down every lyric as I would move the needle back ever so gently to catch the next phrase with my pen just so I could eventually sing each word with the artist. As I grew older, I found out that record shops in Manhattan had printed lyric sheets. I was on the subway faster than lightening with my eye on the prize. Off to Colony Records! Then headed downtown to Bleeker Bob’s!  Had to get my fill! I’d come home with new albums and sheet music ready to sing and learn write lyrics. This was my classroom. It would take hours to get each word written and when I finally finished getting them all, I’d sing my heart out. Yes, that one song over and over til I knew each word by heart and then I would repeat the entire process again. Ahhh.. persistence…

Owner Bob Plotnik and his shop have been a Bleeker Street fixture for 45 years.  Bleeker Bob’s is one of those places you could spend hours and hours in. Searching through each stack of albums, touching each one, reading each jacket. A new or old release always echoing though the store. Bleeker Bob, you and you perfect little shop on Bleeker Street will be truly missed. Thank you for so many wonderful years Bob….

Bob in the 1973 issue of Creem Magazine
Bob in the 1973 issue of Creem Magazine

For The Records” A documentary film on ” Bleeker Bob’s by Hazel Sheffield and Emily Judem

Jonathan Winters: Groundbreaking improv comic has died at 87

 Personally feeling heartbroken. Not only was Jonathan Winters one of my personal all time favorites, but a dear friend of IndieStardust called him “Uncle Jonathan” as he was growing up.  I am working on getting an exclusive personal tribute for us from him. Until then.. if we hear giggling thunder coming from the skies.. we certainly know why..


Comedian Jonathan Winters, whose “off the wall” brilliantly executed improvisations inspired Robin Williams and every other comic I have ever spoken with, passed away Thursday evening at age 87  at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes said longtime family friend Joe Petro III according to AP.

Winters was a master of improv. His facial contortions were the most memorable and eclectically funny.  His characters, like the dirty old lady Maude Frickert were based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.

“The Jonathan Winters Show” pioneered dual screen videotape technology in the 1950’s. He was introduced to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of Williams’ silly space guy in the final season of ABC’s “Mork and Mindy.”

Jonathan Winters as Maude Fricket with Dean Martin 

Jonathan Winters Montage

1988 Jonathan Winters delivers a monologue at “Bob Hope’s 50 Years at NBC”

Jonathan Winters “The Stick” Apr 1964 Jack Paar

Certifiably Jonathan
Certifiably Jonathan

Jay Leno leaving ‘Tonight Show,’ Jimmy Fallon will take the helm

by Karen A. Brown

I adore Jimmy Fallon. His adorableness, his creativity, his awareness, his willingness to step outside the stratosphere, his musical and comedic gifts… all Fallon genius. Not always does a major network get it right, this time NBC has a perfect fit! Here’s how exciting this is for television, the ‘Tonight Show’ will return to New York City in 2014 and Lorne Michaels will be executive producer, says NBC.

Lorne Michaels and Jimmy Fallon go way back. Have a look at Fallon’s brilliance right out of the gate in his “Original Saturday Night Live Audition”.

Here’s a quick teaser clip prior to the announcement:

WATCH: Jimmy Fallon & Jay Leno Address “Tonight Show” Rumors with Duet

Jimmy and Jay sing their version of the classic duet “Tonight” from the Broadway musical “West Side Story.”

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jay Leno (left) and Jimmy Fallon at the Golden Globe Awards in January. Next year, Fallon will be taking Leno’s place on The Tonight Show, NBC says. (Below) Screenshot of Jay Leno at NBC Studios as Jimmy and Jay finish their version of the classic duet “Tonight” from the Broadway musical “West Side Story.” We wish them both the best!

Jay Leno

Karen A. Brown and The StardustBlue team can be found on Twitter @IndieStardust @StardustBluCEO @StardustBlu

“Forward” Man Walks Backward through Jerusalem

image (1)“Forward” Man Walks Backward through Jerusalem has gone viral on Youtube.

Filmmaker Messe Kopp, takes a walk through the streets of downtown Jerusalem backwards, yet, appears to be walking forward. Most of the backdrop seems to be shown backwards it truly feels as if he is walking forward.

 Incredible execution. It certainly seems as though the entire film was very well planned prior to shooting it.

HootSuite: Social Media Management

Billy Vera on his new album “Big Band Jazz”, Buble “At This Moment”, Ray Charles, a Grammy win and more..

Billy Vera on his new album “Big Band Jazz”, Buble “At This Moment”, Ray Charles, a Grammy win and more.. by Karen A. Brown  Follow @IndieStardust 

I had the honor of speaking with brilliant songwriter, performer and actor, Billy Vera, about his latest album, his Grammy win last month and his musical journey though the years.

KAB: Tell us a bit about your new album, “Billy Vera: Big Band Jazz”. 09-atxl

BV: I’ve wanted to do a big band album for years and the royalties from Michael Buble’s recording of my song “At This Moment” provided the financing.  I procrastinated so long that now everybody seems to be doing a standards album, so I figured I’d better come up with something to make mine stand out from the pack.  Someone said, “What do you know better than anyone else?”  I thought about it and realized that I have a great knowledge of black music and the history of black showbiz.  So I decided the theme would be songs by the great black songwriters of the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

This theme served a second purpose. I wanted to celebrate the successes of these men and women.  I get so tired of seeing blacks portrayed as victims when it would be more productive to instill a pride in the accomplishments of these great composers, like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Johnson and others.

We recorded at Capitol’s famed Studio A, where Sinatra, Nat Cole, Dean Martin and Nancy Wilson made their classic recordings and hired 18 of LA’s finest jazz musicians.  We recorded live, no overdubs, just like the old days, to get the proper, authentic feel for the music.

Billy Vera performing, “A Room with a View” from his new album “Big Band Jazz”

KAB: You finally and deservedly earned your first GRAMMY for Best Album Notes for Ray  Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in February. Tell us how it felt the moment your name was called and a bit about your history with Ray Charles.

BV: This was my fourth nomination, so I knew not to get too excited beforehand.  My last one was for Ray’s 50th anniversary box set.  Since I consider Ray Charles to be the most important musical figure of the second half of the 20th Century, I was surprised not to win that time.  I’ve annotated and/or produced over 200 historical reissues, including eight of Ray’s music.  I even got to record him once, a duet with Lou Rawls. He’s long been my musical hero and greatest influence, although I sing nothing like him.

We arrived late, thanks to my date’s hairdresser, and got there just as the category before mine was being announced.  We hadn’t even gotten seated when they called my name.  She screamed and I ran down the aisle, afraid they might hand it off to one of the models, my date running after me, whooping and shooting photos with her little cell phone.  I kept my speech short and sweet, as I’m not a fan of long-winded acceptances.

KAB: How did your connection with Michael Buble and your journey with “At This Moment” on Michael’s album “Crazy Love” come to be?

BV: I have no idea whose idea it was for Buble to record my song.  Every so often, I check Youtube, to see if there’s any new action on my songs and one day I stumbled across Michael’s live version, so I did a little digging and discovered he’d recorded it.

KAB: How long has it been on the charts now?

BV: It entered the charts at #1 in October, 2009 and remains on the British charts to this day.

KAB: Are you and Michael working on any other projects together or will you be
in the near future?

BV: I’ve never met Michael or anyone from his circle.  I pitched a song to his manager, but was told he co-writes his singles and the rest of his albums contain well-known standards, like “At This Moment.”

 KAB: When you write, does the lyric or the melody come first? Are you usually on guitar or piano?

BV: I mostly write on piano, but occasionally on guitar.  I wrote my first #1 hit, “I Really Got The Feeling,” recorded by Dolly Parton, on guitar.

KAB: The music industry has changed drastically from when you began, what advice would you give to new writers/performers?

BV: I honestly wouldn’t know what to do if I had to start my career today.  There’s far more people competing and fewer people willing to listen to a new person.  Yet, some always manage to find a way.  The best advice I can offer is to find that thing inside you that makes you different and allow that to emerge.  The world doesn’t need copycats.  Originals always have the best chance of making it.

KAB: What’s your perception of the music related reality shows like The Voice,
American Idol etc.

BV: I’m not a big fan of those shows generally.  There seems to be an over-the-top formula for winning that isn’t about originality.

KAB: If you had to choose the top 6 favorite songs you’ve written throughout the
years, which would they be?

That’s a hard question, like asking which of your children is your favorite.  It changes from one day to the next.  But some of my favorites are “Hopeless Romantic,” “Let You Get Away,” “Someone Will School You, Someone Will Cool You,” “Room With A View,” “If I Were A Magician” and “Good Morning Blues.”

KAB: Would you tell us a bit about Lou Rawls and what it was like working with

BV: Lou had one of the unique voices ever, one of the last of a breed, the great black baritones.  He trusted me and never argued over my song choices.  My partner, Michael Cuscuna and I got him after a down period in his career.  Our boss at Blue Note Records, Bruce Lundvall, told us to take him back to the kind of music he became originally famous for: blues and jazz.  We surrounded him with some of the finest musicians of the genre.  The first album, At Last, reached #1 on the jazz charts and the next two made the top five.  A few years later, for Savoy Records, I produced his final album, Rawls Sings Sinatra, which remained on the charts for six months.

KAB: Any other great stories from the past that you can share? A special
recording session? Live show?

BV: My first hit record as an artist was a duet with Judy Clay, who was a member of the veraclaygreat gospel group, The Drinkard Singers, with Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother) and Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and their mother, Lee Drinkard.  We were the first interracial duo to sing love songs.  The first time we played the Apollo Theater in Harlem, it was quite a shock, as no one had seen a picture of us, so when I made my entrance, you could hear 1500 people gasp.  I heard people saying, “That’s him?”

They had put us on in the second spot, which is the worst spot in a show, in case we didn’t go over well.  But after the first show, the stage manager came to our dressing room and said, “I’m switching up the show.  You’re going on right before the star, ’cause ain’t nobody gonna be able to follow you two.”  We turned out to be very popular in Harlem and our photo is still on the wall in the lobby, after over 40 years.

billy_vera_recordingKAB: You have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How fun was that experience and *smiling* how long did it take to get the cement out of your shoes?

BV: That was Angie Dickinson’s doing.  She nominated me and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce voted.  To be frank, I was a little uncomfortable, as I feared I wasn’t a big enough “name” to have a star and I was afraid people might write nasty things about me, thinking I didn’t deserve it.  But it turned out fine and people were happy for me.

KAB: How did you step into the acting arena and what are your most memorable roles?

BV: Jon Voight, who’s the brother of my early songwriting mentor, Chip Taylor, came in the club one night with his acting teacher, David Proval and talked me into attending his class. They thought I’d make a good actor. After a while, I was asked to be in plays and eventually a movie, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which became a cult film that people still ask about all these years later.

Most of my roles have been smaller ones, but occasionally I got to play parts that were more well rounded, like the TV show Wise Guy, where I was the central guest part that week. I was also in Oliver Stone’s The Doors and Blind Date, directed by Blake Edwards.

bv.smilingKAB: Thank you, Billy, it’s been an honor, is there anything else you would like
to share with our readers?

BV: I’d like to thank the fans for allowing me to make a living at what I love to do, for all these years.  I feel lucky that I never had to take a real job!

Follow Billy Vera on Twitter @billybeater

Michael Buble singing “At This Moment” by Billy Vera

Ricky Nelson was the first to record one of Billy Vera’s songs. Mean Old World, written by Billy Vera for Ricky Nelson

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Director Kevin Breslin and his New Indie, “Blowtorch” starring William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Jared Abrahamson

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Director Kevin Breslin and his New Indie, “Blowtorch” starring William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Jared Abrahamson


Let’s shoot a film in the middle of hurricane cleanup:  Director Kevin Breslin’s New Indie, “Blowtorch” stars William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Jared Abrahamson 

by Karen A. Brown @StardustBluCEO

On October 29th when Hurricane Sandy hit the The Northeast, Director Kevin Breslin was in pre-production to begin filming “Blowtorch”. Little did Breslin know, he would first have to watch 100 homes burn to the ground in his neighborhood of Rockaway, NY and lose two cars while being forced to weather the storm on the top floor of his home. He has spent  the last two months living in 5 different locations while he’s been filming “Blowtorch” on the streets of Brooklyn. On one night, he had to direct from his car, as the deluge from the sky made it impossible to be out in the street.

BT_DAY_017-03576 (1)With a stellar cast of veteran actors William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Paul Ben-Victors and Jared Abrahamson burning up the screen, this drama is sure to be powerful. The story, written by Breslin, is set in Brooklyn. “Blowtorch” tells of a murder of a teen over ‘bathsalts’. (http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/bath-salts)

BT_DAY_05-01204I caught up with Breslin to get the inside scoop on “Blowtorch”, which will be released sometime late this year.

What was it like filming on the streets of Brooklyn?

BT_DAY_017-03420Breslin: Brooklyn is the greatest place on earth to film. For “Blowtorch” I tried to relive the naked city and on the waterfront. It still has cobblestone. It has the old crumbling factories and the lonely streets. The piers jut out with NYC in the background. The hard edge of the waterfront in Sunset Park allowed me to show the working class world. The rich and the dreams of greatness always twinkled across the river.

BT_DAY_01-00282You wrote “Blowtorch”, can you share more about the process of creating the script?

Breslin: This is a story out of my mind. I worked in many factories and knew many tough people. I loaded trucks for years at night in Canarsie. I knew about a few different murders in my life and had to get at some fiction. I have made one doc after the next in BT_DAY_01-00205the past few years and knew it was time for me to start working with fiction. It is in my blood.

Your last film, “#whilewewatch” was a raw fast paced doc on the Occupy Wall St Media team, how different was shooting with seasoned actors?

BT_DAY_13-03095 (1)Breslin: I was excited to meet all the actors. I loved them. Billy Baldwin, Armand Assante, Kathy Najimy, Jared Abrahamson, Paul Ben David and Lois Robbins. They were all great. All the characters are New York. The actors gave brilliant performances. This is about a teenager murdered over bathsalts in Brooklyn. I know reality and doc story telling. I trusted my instincts about story and just giving the actors the freedom to work. BT_DAY_01-00054 (1)I loved when they said to me, ‘Hey, I have an idea. Can I try this or that?’ I loved that. They were invested in their characters. I just wanted them to bring the rhythm of their roles to life. Can’t wait to do it again. Actors are smart people.

Any quirky stories during the shoot that you would like to share?

BT_DAY_05-01177Breslin: Yeah, I was homeless because of Hurricane Sandy and have been sleeping all over the BT_DAY_016-03161place till my house is ready. My son Quinn, age 5, thought he was Billy Baldwin’s son. And called himself Jesse. He would run lines with Billy at 3 am. He started asking when was his chance to do a scene. The camera crew put him in makeup and I called action. He stared throwing out some lines. Insanity… (*laughing*)

You are editing now, when will the film be released?

Breslin: This is an indie. It will be out sometime next year. This is an edgy murder story on the waterfront in Brooklyn. A teenager dies over bathsalts. His mother seeks revenge and wants the murderer caught. She becomes inexorable and takes the law into her own hands. Lois Robbins BT_DAY_01-00142is the mom. Billy Baldwin is a detective who is after the killer and has to use all his skills to keep the mother from ruining a murder case.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the writing and/or filming of Blowtorch?

BT_DAY_13-02760Breslin: I was blessed to have a great NY crew. The mayor’s office gave us ‘cart blanche’ and we shot all over the Brooklyn streets. For a film with a small budget I think we will give the streets a big-time look. I look forward to getting the film out for everyone to enjoy. I wanted to a film in the vein of the old NY movies from Lumet…even the edgy look from  Billy Friedkin. I used old lenses from the 60’s to give the film a unique look…. Thank god for cobblestones.
Find more on Director Kevin Breslin at http://www.breslinfilms.com Follow on Twitter @KevinBreslin
#whilewewatch on Snagfilms.com 

Blowtorch on IMDb


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Heart – Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin – Kennedy Center Honors

In 6 minutes and 42 seconds Ann and Nancy Wilson took “Stairway to Heaven” literally to heaven. Creating musical tension with a gentle whispering of the initial lyric, Ann builds a powerhouse arrangement of live orchestration and chorus of gospel vocals, as Jason Bonham, the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham kicks in with a chilling demonstration of his extraordinary ghost-like talent .  Bringing tears to the eyes of the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones in a back-of- the-neck hair-raising display of the best of the best of rock n’ roll.

Heart – Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin – Kennedy Center Honors

Entertainment Weekly said of the event:

The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony is the annual event in which celebrities in various fields get all gussied up, travel to Washington, D.C., rub shoulders with the President, and hear exalting speeches about themselves. This year, the testimonials were laced with traces that don’t often make it into a taped TV awards-show final cut: frankness, near-brutal honesty, and almost tearful love.

One great thing about the Kennedy Center Honors is that the recipients don’t do any speaking themselves, and thus they and we are spared minutes of humble, and mock-humble, acceptances speeches. The honorees just sit there, grinning, with their medals hanging from ribbons around their necks.”

Jack Black Introduces Led Zeppelin at The 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors – FULL Induction Ceremony – Kid Rock – Lenny Kravitz – Foo Fighters –

EW added of Plant, Page, and Jones:

The three members of Zeppelin present — Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones — sat in the audience looking like delighted, if aging, schoolboys let into a grown-ups’ party; they were all smiles, as much during salutes to Hoffman and Letterman as when an array of musicians performed Zeppelin music.”

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Gregory Darling – Latest Release “Coloured Life”

Invitation Video PHOTO Julian Lennon 2012 in London, England.
Invitation Video PHOTO Julian Lennon 2012 in London, England.

The smooth live sound of Gregory Darling brings us back to the day when music was music. New, fresh, alive written and recorded with full live orchestration, Gregory’s new album “Coloured Life” fills us with pure emotion. “Coloured Life” is tangible with a mature, raw purity.

Harmonies and layers are “Beatles” reminiscent bringing an immediate recognition with Gregory’s velvety intonation in front of it all. His textured appeal has been likened to a blend of Elton John, Elvis Costello with Billy Joel all merged into Gregory’s own uniqueness.

293081_10151022562322894_592100379_nJulian Lennon joins Gregory on the album with support with his myriad of talents, musical and photographic.Gregory Darling is a gift to our ears and heart. Do not miss this album!  – Karen A. Brown

Order Gregory Darling’s new album “Coloured Life”

BIO below taken from Gregory Darling


Much of ‘Coloured Life’, the new album by Gregory Darling, is so instantly memorable it suggests that Darling is wired into some illegal song-writing machine. And when Darling sings “I’m gonna take the ride of my life/Take my mind up to the sky” on ‘Ride Of My Life’ – the first single to be taken from the album – you know he is emoting with some kind of authority. Back when popular music was a tangible threat to the establishment, Darling notoriously turned down countless record deals (£1.5 million from EMI/SBK and even more lucrative offers from A & M, RCA and Capitol Records) and ‘Ride Of My Life’ surely documents this synopsis and yet proves something else: a pure blast of classic, euphoric popular music is what the world’s been waiting for.

Of course having said all that, Gregory Darling turns out to be an enigma. Famed for
appearing in a choir conducted as a child by Ennio Morricone (Exorcist 2) and counting
his diminutive godliness Prince amongst his die-hard following, Darling initially signed
to Polygram as Bowie/Prince/Queen-influenced outfit Darling Cruel and shifted 100,000
copies of his debut album ‘Passion Crimes’ in its first week of release. At the time
Gregory was managed by Guns ‘n’ Roses/Poison lynchpin Vicki Hamilton (although it was
legendary producer Bob Rose that actually secured the deal) and as the record spawned
two videos that became Polygram’s most successful MTV videos of the year (according
to label boss Dick Asher it was also “the best album I have heard since I signed Pink Floyd”) you could be forgiven for thinking that Darling’s future looked as bright as the decade it was no doubt heralding. Indeed around this time Slash conceded that Guns ‘n’ Roses track ‘December Rain’ was their attempt at a Darling Cruel song but typically, just as Darling Cruel completed the follow-up – a record called ‘Movies For The Mind’ produced by Tony Visconti in New York – Polygram discovered rap, Asher got fired and all bets were off.

At this juncture, you could hardly blame Gregory for cracking up and jumping out of a moving car before disappearing for a full six months.
Eventually, Rose rediscovered Darling (through some kind of LA osmosis), frog-marched him into recording several demos at Rockfield Studios in Wales (with Silverhead/Robert Plant guitarist Robby Blunt) – which is where Darling began swerving deals like someone was out to get him. However, serendipity is a wonderful thing and in 1996 Darling found himself living in France where he became Julian Lennon’s co-writer. Indeed, Darling was all set to sign to Lennon’s Music From Another Room record label before Sony New York made an enormous offer only for FOD Records label boss Dean Manjuris to finally secure his signature. Subsequently, Darling started recording an album at Lennon’s Tree House studio before finishing off the record with sessions at studios in Prague and Air Studios in London. The results (produced by Bob Rose) became ‘Shell’, a record that catapulted Darling into the Top Ten in Italy and Germany and saw him touring with Bryan Adams (a huge fan of Gregory) as main support.

Two years later Darling released his second album for FOD Records. Entitled ‘Stew Americano’ and produced by Bob Rose and recorded at Wisselord Studios, Amsterdam, the record boasted Portishead’s Clive Deamer and Alan Parson’s Project bassist Joe Puerta within its ranks yet it was Darling’s coolly, cruel lyrics and unique vocal delivery that set him apart. The reviews were ecstatic – the Sunday Times called it “a wonderful album full of classic 1970s-style piano pop that should delight anyone who loves peak period Elton John or Joe Jackson” whilst the Mail On Sunday suggested it had “a romantic weariness that recalls something of Elton John in his prime”
– and comparisons to Billy Joel or Alan Price emerged but another image also sprung to mind – that of a Punch-The-Clock era Elvis Costello fronting the Beatles. It was enough to make you weak. Fast forward to 2012 and Darling has now found a new lease of life and it’s this optimism that makes new album ‘Coloured Life’ sound so young and full of beans.

PHOTO:  Julian Lennon
PHOTO: Julian Lennon

Produced by Bob Rose and recorded and mixed in Brussels and Rome, the album could almost be Adele or Amy Winehouse as re-imagined by Elvis Costello and it has an instant, classic feel, like something you’ve had knocking around the house for years: ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ is about setting the record straight before you fly headlong into a relationship; ‘The Invitation’ is the (true) story of a rich Monaco heiress who offered Darling “the keys to the city.” ‘Monkey Love’ was inspired by an eye-opening trip to the zoo and is good enough to be in Jungle Book; and best of all is ‘With Or Without This Song’ which is probably the least cynical and most self-effacing tune you’re likely to hear this side of the millennium. Darling has been quoted as saying “at school, I played in a lot of bands, a black funk act, even at the Southern Baptist Church in Tujunga every Sunday, until they kicked me out for falling asleep under a piano,” but he also attended music school in LA in order to learn to write songs properly and it is this combination of eccentricity and expertise that makes ‘Coloured Life’ such a revelation. It’s the sound of someone hitting the ground running.

Gregory Darling and Julian Lennon
Gregory Darling and Julian Lennon

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