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Jeff Moehlis

Jeff Moehlis: Take a Journey Through Dave Mason’s Musical Career

Traffic co-founder and solo star to perform at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Dave Mason will be the opening act for Journey at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday. Click to view larger
Dave Mason will be the opening act for Journey at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday. (Chris Jensen photo)

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Dave Mason was a co-founder of the English psychedelic/folk rock band Traffic, and he stuck around for their first two albums, the second of which contains his original version of "Feelin' Alright," a song that became a huge hit for Joe Cocker.

Mason also had a notable solo career, with albums including his 1970 debut Alone Together and 1974's Let It Flow. Some songs from Mason's solo career are "Only You Know and I Know," "We Just Disagree" and "Let It Go, Let It Flow."

As if all of this wasn't enough, along the way he also worked with other artists, including Jimi Hendrix for his cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," George Harrison for his first album All Things Must Pass, Paul McCartney for "Listen to What the Man Says" and much, much more.

Mason will be the opening act for Journey at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday, so be sure to show up early! Tickets are available by clicking here. Mason answered Noozhawk's questions by email.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at your upcoming show?

Dave Mason: I will be playing some material from my Traffic days, with a couple of variations on a couple of the songs — for example, a bluesy version of "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys." The rest of the set will be songs from my solo career — Alone Together up to some new material.

JM: My favorite Traffic album is the second one, which includes some great songs that you wrote. What are your reflections on that album, nearly 50 years after it was recorded?

DM: From my point of view, it was a maturing of my songwriting and much more cohesive as an album.

JM: Around that time you also recorded with Jimi Hendrix. How did that come about, and what was that experience like?

DM: I met him at an after-hours club called the Speakeasy. It was somewhere recording artists could go hang out, get something to eat without being bothered. He was a Traffic fan, and I was a huge fan of his. I got to spend time with him both socially and in the studio, Olympic, where Traffic, The Stones and Hendrix would record. We also all shared the same engineer, Eddie Kramer.

I recorded some things with him, a couple of them with me playing bass and sitar. This led to me singing on "Crosstown Traffic," and playing the acoustic guitar on his version of "All Along the Watchtower."

JM: When I saw you at the Granada Theatre a few years ago, you commented that when you moved to the U.S. in 1969 the only person you knew was Gram Parsons, who let you sleep on his couch for a month. How did you know him, and are there any stories you're willing to share from that month?

DM: I got to know Gram at some Stones sessions at Olympic Studios. He also introduced me to Delaney & Bonnie, who later had a No. 2 record with my song "Only You Know and I Know."

JM: Not too long after your move, you recorded your first solo album, the wonderful Alone Together. Where was your mind at when you started working on that album?

DM: I wanted to make something that was relatively simple — acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and drums.

JM: A couple of songs on the albums I've mentioned became even better known through covers — "Feeling Alright" performed by Joe Cocker and "Only You Know and I Know" performed by Delaney & Bonnie. What do you think of their versions?

DM: I did "Feeling Alright" on the second Traffic album. Joe made it into the classic that it has become. I think every bar band has played it and it's been recorded by some 50-plus artists, not to mention the movies, TV shows and commercials it's been in. "Only You Know and I Know" was an excellent version.

JM: Over the years, you've had a number of notable musical contributions to other artists' work besides Hendrix, including "Across the Universe," "Street Fighting Man," "All Things Must Pass," Delaney & Bonnie, a few shows with Derek and the Dominos, and "Listen to What the Man Says." Which of these particularly stand out to you?

DM: They all do ...

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

DM: In this day of no record sales, it's hard to say, but like anything in life if you want it bad enough you'll find a way.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career in music?

DM: The music speaks for itself.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

DM: I will keep playing until I can't. ... Don't miss the last show!!!

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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