Jeff DeVillez / Blog

Harry Connick Jr

In 1996,we were recording horns one night at Flashpoint Recording for "Tropicowboy"when Freddy Mendoza and Elias Haslanger were packing up to leave the session.Freddy said"Hey Jeff,every Tuesday we play at Cedar Street(on 4th St in Austin),and we have had a guy temporarily sitting in on piano every Tuesday too.Why don't you come and see us?About two hours later I made my way to Cedar Street.They were playing on the patio area rear stage.The piano player was on the far stage right facing the right wall.I couldn't see who it was.Freddy noticed me and said"Come up to the stage on the break".After a few more songs they finished and I went to the stage.The piano player was Harry Connick Jr.Freddy introduced us and we sat on the edge of the stage talking for maybe 10-15 minutes. I asked Harry what he was doing for so many months in Austin.He said"I am filming a movie with Sandra Bullock "Hope Floats".We continued to talk awhile about music and the band once again took the stage.Harry Connick Jr was congenial and friendly,and played a mean piano too.Thanks!

Meeting Curtis Knight

Curtis Knight(Curtis McNear)was a singer,promotor and close friend of Jimi Hendrix in NYC.When I joined Gregg Diamond's band "Fat Alice from Dallas"in 1970 as lead singer,our manager Mel Weiss rented a hotel ballroom near Times Square as our rehearsal space. Our band had Harvey Vinson on guitars,Gregg Diamond on Drums and Jimmy"Gums"Gregory on bass.All had met while attending Julliard.Gregg and Jimmy played on a lot of hit records.Gregg played on Melanie's records,Cubie and the Five Stairsteps("Ooh Ooh Child,things are gonna get easier") ,all of Tony Orlando's hits,etc..through his connection with Dave Appel. I spent some time with Dave at the Brill Bldg(where Carole King wrote "Chains"(which was recorded by the Beatles)and Neil Sedaka wrote "Oh Carol"about her.In fact,Neils first band was The Linctones(named for Lincoln High School in Brooklyn where they attended school)There were many hits written there-Gene Pitney wrote"Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"and many other hits there...anyway,Dave Appel had a group called the Tokens and recorded a song in 1961 called "The Lion Sleeps Tonight",which was a huge hit based on a folk song from South Africa.Curtis Knight used to come to our rehearsals in the hotel ballroom with a girl on each arm.If we wanted coffee,he would take us in his white Cadillac convertible-with the top down in the winter snow-full of his girls and wearing his pinto pony skin coat.I have a pic of him in that coat that I have posted in my Reverbnation pics.. At any rate,around 1966 or so,Curtis,according to Jimmy Gregory,put up the money for Jimi to go to England and form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.Curtis and Jimi were also studio business partners in Greenwich Village.They had two studios"Electric Ladyland"and "PPX" in one space.They had a divider and could use either studio alone,of could open the whole mess and put an orchestra in there. When I first got to NYC,Gregg picked me up at Kennedy Airport in his Chevy Impala.We were headed to his Central Park West apartment at 120 W 70th St,when He asked where I was from.I said Evansville,Indiana".He responded"Isn't there a lot of corn and hogs there?".I said yes-staring up at the skyscrapers as I answered.He then asked"How many people live there?" I answered"Oh,about 100,000 or so".He then replied"Well,that's close to the population of my block".It was then I knew that I was in a "whole nother place".He gave me a spare room in his apartment full of reels and reels of recording tape.I asked"What is all of this?".He responded"Oh,those are reels of me and Jimi(Hendrix)jamming.Gregg was the last drummer-though he was trained at Julliard as a pianist-to play with Hendrix.I also met producer Pete Schkeryk(Melanie's husband)and Melanie through Gregg-along with Kevin Eggers at Poppy(later became Tomato div of RCA)Records who discussed releasing me as a solo artist.He had just recently signed a young folkie named Townes Van Zandt.There is a lot more to say about my time in NYC-I am working on a book that I hope I can finish,but I thought the Curtis Knight story was a good one.Thank you all for bearing with me.

1974 backstage with Badfinger & Canned Heat

In 1974,Bobby Alexander was allowing me to interview various artists he brought to Evansville and do "air checks" with them.I had worked recently with WUAZ-FM(now WGBF)and WIKY and also did a show on WEVC-FM called Spectrum(now WUEV-who played a lot of my music also). That night around 1974,Canned Heat played first,so,after their set while Badfinger was playing,I interviewed Bobby"The Bear"Hite,who was Canned Heat's singer.The entire 10 minutes or so as we talked,Bobby was swigging Jack Daniels from a big bottle.He had a gravelly speaking voice and probably weighed between 300-400 lbs at that point.He did some "air checks" with me and,about the time we finished,Badfinger came bounding off the stage.Bobby Hite died not long after that. I was a big Badfinger fan and immediately went with them to their "dressing room",which consisted of a concrete room-about halfway down the backstage steps.If you were familiar with Roberts Stadium,you know just the room to which I refer.The room had four metal folding chairs and not much else.I talked briefly on tape to three of the guys,but the last guy was Pete Ham.He was hunched over in the folding chair looking at the concrete floor.When I asked his name he said what sounded like "Pete Helm",but he quickly corrected me to "Ham".He was the writer of "Come and get it"from "The Magic Christian",as well as the hits "No Matter What","Day After Day",and "Without You",the latter which became a huge hit for Harry Nilsson.He was very soft spoken and,honestly,seemed depressed at the time.The other three were more animated and excited,but he seemed more withdrawn.Pete did no air checks and seemed to be glad when we finished.I enjoyed my time with them though,and loved the material. Several years later,Pete took his own life and Badfinger was no more.Just a little moment from the past.

Phone Conversation

Yesterday I spent 30-40 minutes on the phone when Joe Vannelli called me from LA.Many of you don't know him and his brother Gino,but both have been nice to me over the 36 years since we first met.They have invited me to a concert,to Joes home studio and to their newest studio,Blue Moon,in Agoura Hills. They have a great facility out there and I am trying to get some cash together to use it sometime in the next few years.We discussed how the music industry has changed,and in general,how the music has worsened as the technology has improved.We had a great conversation.With Joe and Gino,any conversation is always great.These guys are congenial and beyond courteous.I hope to record with Joe(possibly Gino too)in the not too distant future.That is in the plans.Joe is going to listen to my last two CDs and give me his feedback.I just sent them off today.Actually,when Joe called,I was pumping gas at a Shell gas station,so I had him hold on for awhile,and continued our conversation when I finished.Great people and a great facility. If anyone reading this has an interest,I can hook you up with their place for a great rate(lockouts are available),and you can work with Joe.If you have heard any of Gino's platinum albums on A & M Records,you have heard Joe's playing and arrangingIt's "thumbs up" all the way.Wayyyy Up!!

Danny Draher and I with Merle Haggard

I put up some links to Danny,whom I co-produced,co-engineered,co-mixed and mastered the "Big Fun Tonite" CD for.Danny is a great guitarist who has played and recorded with over 100 major artists including Keith Richards,Bonnie Raitt,Etta James and a ton more.This album featured Dr,John,Wil Bascomb,Mike Clark and Bernard Purdie-among many.Anyway,back in 1996 we were recording my "Tropicowboy"CD in Austin and Danny and me were the last to leave Flashpoint Recording near 6th St that night about 7 pm.We walked the half block,crossed 6th St to the other side,and headed west down 6th.We noticed a mobile studio from Reelsound,TV satellite trucks,etc.in front of the "Hang Em High Saloon"parked along 6th.The entrance was on the next corner,but there was a grey metal door halfway down the block.Just before we reached that door,it flew open right in front of Danny.A guy stuck his arm out and grabbed Danny by the arm saying"Would you guys hurry up and get in here,we gotta get this show on the road".We stepped inside and suddenly were behind Merle Haggard as he was tuning his guitar backstage at the "Hang Em High".We looked at each other crazily and Danny said"Wow,I always wanted to meet Merle Haggard,and here I am standing behind him"That was a crazy day..I will post another similar story(I have several)soon about another major artist.Thanks all!

May 25th update

Tomorrow,May 26th will be mine and Marina's 29th anniversary.We have really been together over 30 years,but officially married for 29.I met her in Guatemala City where she lived across the street from me,and next door to Grupo Caoba's rehearsal studio. We went to see the first Indiana Jones movie in downtown Guatemala City near the Parque de la Concordia on 5th Avenue and were mostly together since that day.We have traveled many places together and I can honestly say that more than half of my music has been inspired by her "can do anything" spirit.Of course,I could probably have done a lot more than I have.By the same token,I might not be alive if it wasn't for her calming effect. Either way,we have been together for 30 years+,combining my mostly French history with her mostly Mayan heritage. We look forward to going more places and doing wonderful things together in the future that remains. Somehow,after Europe,South America,Africa and most of Central America,we have discovered just how adaptable one can be to various cultures and belief systems.Through finding each other,we have discovered that people-no matter where they are from or what they may believe-are much more alike than different. I will celebrate tomorrow knowing that we are a part of the same humanity that all people belong to.That we share this air,water,food and space in incredibly similar ways.I know I am "off subject" here a bit,but Marina is my inspiration.She is the one who is most often right.She snaps me back to reality when I become lost emotionally and dispirited.I know from decades of experience that I was destined to meet her by a higher power.I would be lost without her wonderful spirit that lives,as the Mayan people have done for more than 10,000 years,so close to the earth.Peace!

New music and listeners!

I am now getting a flood of listeners from Argentina(Yo amo a Argentina),Turkey,Japan,S Korea,Indonesia (especially Indonesia)and a ton of places I never expected it from.Rest assured I love you all and appreciate every fan.If you speak English,Spanish or Italian,I can probably talk to you and understand your messages.I do my best to talk to everyone who wants to talk-even when I am not at home.This week,I am rehearsing for a show this saturday,May 19th,at The Art Museum of South Texas.I am here for you all.If you love harmony,melody,structure and-for the most part-positivity in your music,you have come to the best website on earth for that.Send this link to your friends:"www.reverbnation.com/jeffdevillez" and see if they agree! Peace to all !!

Recording Caoba

Two years after the massive Feb 1976 earthquake,in the summer of 78 I went to Guatemala.I was sick with a stomach problem I brought with me from Mexico,so most of that week I spent in bed in Casa Shaw II near the Parque de la Concordia.I came back in 79 after connecting with Cesar Martinez through Mike Borne(another story).Cesar asked me to remix a few salsa tracks the band(Grupo Caoba)had recorded at Studio Sincro. I agreed and 2 hits("Soy de Zacapa "and "Regresaras")were the result.The next year I was singing with,writing for,producing and engineering for the band at Estudio Sincro on a 1/2" 8 track.The songs I uploaded yesterday-"The Man I Am" , "Keeping Our Love Alive" and "Do It Right"are the product of those sessions with Grupo Caoba over 30 years ago.Some of the musicians were German Giordano-guitars and backing vocals;Hugo Grijalva-Bass,Julio Enrique Ramirez on drums and backing vocals(better known as CBS solo artist Julio Enrique),and Byron Menendez on keyboards and synth.Jorge Martinez was also engineering with me at Sincro.These songs are here for your reference and to give some perspective.The only track where I did ALL vocals was "The Man I Am,where all eight vocal tracks are me. I may upload others later if the response warrants it.Thanks again!

Summer/Fall of 1970 in Boston and NYC

One summer day in 1970,I piled into Steve Shelton's 1961 or so beige Chevy with him and Denny Browder to go to Boston and meet up with Jim Huser,who had lined up a drummer,Gregg "Pretty" Diamond to try to reform a band they had recently recorded called Madison Street Sunshine. We drove for about 27 hours straight,before we got lost in the town of Marlborough,MA...then we realized it was Marlborough Street in Boston,about half a block from Massachusettes Ave and the Mass Ave bridge near Charles River park with the bandshell.We ended up rehearsing once,going to a few studios,etc..and mainly seeing Arthur Fiedler in the bandshell with The Boston Pops(with a great view of MIT across the River Charles)and Grand Funk Railroad together.A few days later we saw Great Speckled Bird from Canada.They opened for Van Morrison at Harvard Stadium.Van made his entrance playing a saxophone. The point of the story is,the band never came together,but Gregg(the drummer from NYC)hired me as a singer with his MGM/Colossus-signed band"Fat Alice from Dallas".We rehearsed in a Hotel Ballroom and hung out a lot with Curtis Knight.Curtis (reported by Jim Gregory,our bassist)gave Jimi Hendrix the bucks to go to England and form the Hendrix Experience.Curtis drove a white Caddy convertible in the snow,full of girls and he wore a ponyskin coat.(I still have a pic of him in that coat).Curtis and Jimmy were partners in 2 studios Electric Ladyland and PPX,which were in the same building in Greenwich Village.Both Gregg and Jimmy played on a variety of records..all of Melanie's things(producer by her husband Peter Schekeryk)and a bunch of things Dave Appel was producing from The Brill Building(i.e. Tony Orlando and Dawn,etc).Gregg also recorded "Ooh ooh child" with Cubie and the 5 Stairsteps and a bunch of Edwin Hawkins Singers things-all of these on drums.Most of the records they were on were with Buddah Records-and I think Gregg told me he played "Lay Down Candles in the Rain" with Melanie at Woodstock in 69.Gregg was Jimi Hendrix last drummer,and he had a room full of reels of tape jamming with Hendrix.I know this rambling story is long and will be more detailed in my book someday! Thanks for listening!New York City was a crazy place and music scene in 1970.

Summer of 70'

In the summer of 1970 I was assembling compressors at the Whirlpool factory on Morgan Ave in Evansville,while simultaneously making music.I decided to contact George Martin,so one day I went to work with $20.00 in quarters and called Apple on Savile Row from a factory pay phone.The operator even said(sounds like you're at Whirlpool-told her I was).Anyway,the Apple receptionist gave me this number: CUN1161(Cunningham 1161),which I called.George Martin answered the phone in the control room.I told him I wanted to bring the tape I had just made at Sambo Sound in Louisville.I had just obtained my first passport at age 19,but never went to England to meet him.The call was on the undersea cable and was noisy and full of static.He finally said"Well,Paul(McCartney)is on the other side of the glass and I need to get back to him"He was recording the "Bowl of Cherries"album with "Maybe I'm Amazed" on it,and I was talking to his producer George Martin on the other side of the glass.I thought that was a cool story.Thanks!