Why’d It Take So Long To Write This?
The Ben Rudnick and Friends’ Tenth Anniversary Show is long over you say? Umm… yea, I know. Why am I writing about it now you ask? What took you so long you say? Well…
I know it’s been over four months since we played the show. There are a lot of reasons why this has taken so long. The main reason being, it was a big effort event. Once it was over, it just took awhile to process the ten year line we had drawn, the show itself and what, if anything it meant, beyond the “how cool and what a great time we had” aspect. Also, immediately after the show, there were more major shows and activities demanding my time. It was easy to let it slip.
So why mention it now? Well… the processing has been processed. Photos have been edited. Some recordings have been mixed and it’s just plain been nagging at me. I need to look back and then move on. One Dylan quote, for good or ill, underlies a lot of what I think about: “He who’s not busy being born is busy dying.” I like being born. But, there is also this great Dylan quote: “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” So - here I am. I’m taking care of my memories before starting in earnest on some really cool new stuff.
The show was just a hoot. In hindsight, the best thing to come out of it, as it usually is in these situations, is the people you run with. It’s hard to say enough about the BR&F core of John Zevos, Arnie Ashford and Jared Steer. All have a passion for music and all of them have a lot of things they need to do and can choose to do. It’s just a tremendous compliment to me that they choose to put their effort into BR&F. Real effort. With the amount of shows we play it would be easy to fall into a rut but we all take pains to cheerfully not let that happen.
Ben, John, Arnie and Jared
And then we added some amazing players.
First to sign on was Mark Yacovone. Mark spent years with the band playing the piano-to-go (accordion). Story time… We were on a trip back from New York after playing shows at the Long Island Children’s Museum. It was our first real band trip. In the van, in January 2003 and it was snowing. We were generally happy but tired. Ready to be home. Mark starts mimicking Ozzy Osborne. Dead on. “SHAAAAARRRRROOOOONNNNN.” We were in tears laughing so hard. So besides being a great player who’s turned into a phenomenal player, Mark is just a great guy to have around.
Mark Yacovone @ WERS 88.9 FM Studios
Some years back, talking 1987 back, traipsing through Europe I met Sue Smith. Sue was traveling with her mom and somehow I made her (very unhappy at the moment) mom laugh. Sue and I have been great friends ever since. Sue is a renowned singer and writer who is creative is so many ways. Sue also prodded me to go meet her boyfriend, Jeff Bird, who came to Boston with the Cowboy Junkies. The Junkies were on their first US tour behind their Trinity Sessions album. At some point they asked me “How long does it take to get to New York City?” These fine people have been around the world more times than I could ever imagine but at that point they didn’t know how long it took to get to NYC!
Anyway… Jeff is just a great friend who has kindly been on every BR&F studio recording and agreed to come play the show. The surprise was that Sue wanted to come too. This is family coming to a big event. This was great!
One of the first asked, but last to sign on was pedal steel guitar player, Buddy Cage. I’ve mentioned Buddy in various emails and posts. Buddy took Jerry Garcia’s seat in the New Riders of the Purple Sage back in late 1971. When we were recording our Grace’s Bell album, a couple of songs just screamed PEDAL STEEL so naturally we sought out our favorite pedal steel player. Buddy Cage! When the Tenth Anniversary show was thought up it seemed only natural to try and get Buddy to come. So we asked! Buddy said he’d try. With about three weeks to go he realized he could make it. It was great, great, great to have Buddy around. Even though he recorded on our disc and I spoke to him on the phone, it really isn’t the same as meeting someone and spending time with them. Buddy fit right in with all the good friends around me. A sweeter guy we couldn’t have met.
We also had four horn players who couldn’t have been better sports about augmenting what we do. John wrote up the horn charts, oversaw the rehearsals and made the whole Tuba Tune Horn section happen. Kudos to them all. The horn players included Rob Lee on saxophone. Rob plays with BR&F semi-irregularly and is all over our “It’s Santa Claus" and "A Frog Named Sam" discs. On tuba was our good friend Joe Wright. Trombone was Michael Woodworth and Jenn Allen on trumpet.
Joe Wright, Jenn Allen, Michael Woodworth and Rob Lee
The last musician to mention but one of the first people to help me on my way into the music world is Diane Zevos. Diane and John and their band Lichen were kind enough to record some early songs with me around the 1989 time frame. Diane put up with my early guitar ramblings with good cheer, was on the early BR&F albums and we play together to this day.
John and Diane Zevos
Lastly, some friends came from fairly far and wide to share the day with us. Jim Packard, impresario from the Long Island Children’s Museum, made the trip and we even got him to introduce us. Old friends from grade school through college also showed up to help make this a really unforgettable day.
So How’d It All Go?
Well it went great! The band locked in fast, which is really no surprise. We’re talking decades of some big time live musical experience here. It was just plain fun. At some point we could sense that the collective was really something special and unique. From the live on the WERS radio warm-up on Saturday afternoon through the show on Sunday, this was exciting and I find group connections such as these really don’t happen once you get a little older. The opportunities just don’t exist as often. Afterward it was also a touch sad. This was a wonderful collection of people and getting them all together was not easy. It really is hard to say if it will ever happen again.
Ben Rudnick and Friends: Tenth Anniversary Edition
Honestly, the highlight was just getting to present songs near and dear to my heart with this set of people. It’s pretty simple.
So, Did It Mean Anything?
Well… four months gone and it’s really come to mean that I have some really fine people in my world. Besides the folks mentioned above, there is my family, Diane and Emily, who just couldn’t be more supportive. Big-time supportive. Also people you don’t see such as Andy Pinkham at Mortal Music, Bob von Elgg at BigFish SmallPond Design and publicists Beth Blenz-Clucas and Elizabeth Waldman. I’m glad to have these people in my life and I’m glad they share their energy with me.
It also means that a lot of effort has been put into making music and recordings over the last ten years. When we released Emily Songs around November of 2000, the term Kindie Music didn’t even exist. Now making music for kids and families is a fairly competitive business. A lot of people take it incredibly seriously. It is, without a doubt a business. What I’ve learned since the show and during the BR&F hiatus in January/February of this year is that I’m glad I make this music. I really like playing music with my friends. I’m really excited to start recording the new songs sitting on my desk. I’m looking forward to playing the really cool shows we have lined up. The business can be a drag but the music, the people I play it with and all the wonderful fans that continually come to hear us play and get as excited as I do, have made me a lucky guy.