Gratitude /ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/ (n): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Expression of gratitude are so important in life. When everything seems to be going wrong in your world, it's difficult to focus on what's good, but that's where gratitude becomes vital to happiness. There are lots of articles on reasons to practice and focus on gratitude, including this one.
I'm not a psychologist, but in order to get you in a grateful mood, I've collected all the songs we can think of about "GRATITUDE" (thanks for your submissions on social media!) as the first in our "WYEP Presents" restorative playlists. In the future, we'll focus on other positive aspects of life like patience, kindness and humilty. If you have a suggestion, please let me know! I'll say putting this playlist made me feel more grateful and happy. Hope you find listening to it brings you the same joy.
With more than 350 concerts over 2 days, Deutschtown Music Festival could feel overwhelming to the uninitiated festival-goer. However, we know better! To prove our point, we reached out to a few local musicians and at least one festival organizer to share their memories of past festivals and their hopes for year.
Jim Donovan (Jim Donovan & The Sun King Warriors)
This will be our first appearance at Deutschtown and we're fired up to be a part of this great event. The North Side has a special place in my heart. As a toddler, my mother would take me on the trolley to Allegheny Center, a small mall which now the home of Nova office complex. Later the area played a key role in the development of my first band Rusted Root. It was there at a studio called Audiomation where we recorded our first full length CD called "Cruel Sun" in 1992. This was the album that included the original version of "Send Me On My Way" which would go on to propel the band to fulfilling many life long dreams. One of these dreams was to play at Three Rivers Stadium which we did in 1995 with the Grateful Dead. Now my son Oliver and I regularly attend Pirate games on this side of the river. Deutschtown is a prime example of how Pittsburgh's neighborhoods can thrive when it's residents step up and decide to make the area more vibrant. I love that they choose to use music as their way of bringing energy and people to the place they call home. We're honored to be a part of it.
Becki Gallagher (LoFi Delphi)
Deutschtown is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Roaming the Northside all day long, trekking across the bridges and running through the streets to find your favorite bands is such a blast! I always grab the pamphlet that shows all the bands/venues and make my plans for the day! I plot out which bands/acts I'm going to see and run around all day long!
Last year, while me and Andrew (from LoFi) were hanging out in the park seeing Strange Monsters, we look over and see someone in a LoFi Delphi shirt! That was the first time I've run into someone sporting our merch out in public! It was so exciting. It was our friend Thomas who writes for Punksburgh... But it was still so exciting either way!
I can't wait for the festival this year. LoFi is playing the main HughShows stage with a bunch of our friends and we couldn't be more grateful.
LoFi Delphi // HughShows Stage at Foreland // Saturday at 6:00pm
Byron Nash (BYRON NASH & PLANB)
In 2016, Byron Nash & Plan B was relatively new and finding our way. We were very excited to play the festival. We were booked in this little bar known for trouble. When I pulled up, a fight broke out that started inside and spilled into the streets. I'll be honest, I was a little nervous, but was determined to rock this gig. This show was unique because PLANB is a five piece set up but our keyboard player Randraiz Wharton and other guitarist Evan Thorsen had gigs booked so decided to rock as a three piece. The bar was long and narrow, smoky as hell and when we started sound check the soundman said "Are you guys cool?" We were like, "Yeah buddy." He then said, "Cool. Here's the volume and mixers, I have to run to another stage so have a good set!" and bounced!
We had to run our own sound and were about to hit and all of a sudden a humongous group of people came in. What had happened is that the other stages were being harassed and shut down for noise complaints so the audience scattered and filled every other venue. Because of that unfortunate situation, we ended up being packed to capacity and had a lot of people check us out who probably would have missed us. We played a grimy, gritty, and funky set that was a result of being so stripped down. It to this date is one of our fiercest performances. We loved it, smoke, sweat, fights and all!
Addi Twigg (The Telephone Line)
The Telephone Line played our first Deutschtown MF in 2015 and had no idea what to expect. We got slotted for Verdetto's, which turned out to be pretty tight for a full band! We weren't sure how to set up, there was a weird wall to work around, and the drum backline was running late. Not to mention the venue is on the outskirts so we weren't sure anyone would show! But when it came time to play, everything fell together: the sound tech nailed it, we made the space work, the crowd showed up and rallied, and the DMF volunteers took great care of us -- including one of them literally giving us the DMF shirt right off his back!
This just might be the biggest annual gathering of people who love music in Pittsburgh -- musicians, sound engineers, volunteers, fans -- everyone comes together to celebrate. We're honored to have been a part of it for the last few years and can't wait for this year!
Andre Costello (Andre Costello & The Cool Minors)
For whatever reason, that first year, I ended up going by myself (I don't have any friends). I didn't perform that year, because I hadn't met Cody. I remember popping in and out of all these venues here and there, checking out this band and that band. At the time, I thought I had a fix on every band in town, but man was I mistaken. There was a band in every space, nook and cranny, and every band local. I remember I ended up at James Street Ballroom at the end of the night. It was about 110 degrees in there. They hadn't renovated at all yet, so the place still had that 1920's stage that ran the whole width of the venue against that back wall of the room. The thing was only about 4 feet deep, and that long, so the band set up in a line that spanned the whole thing. I remember thinking how great is to be in Pittsburgh at this moment in time, and how lucky we are to have such great people working together, making music, and being kind and supportive of each other.
My most fond memory of DMF was in 2017, I was running sound at the Pittsburgh Winery Satellite Stage in an old closed down bar (I think the double r). We had been having a fantastic day loaded with some of my favorite bands playing their best performances when Tim Gaber, of the Winery, came up to me and said the last band had cancelled. He didn’t look worried but he was definitely thinking hard about what to do to keep the music going late. (This was one of the latest venues to have music.)
A few hours later he came up to me again and told me that he may be able to get Clinton Clegg to come and play a secret surprise solo acoustic set for the stages closing act. I was so excited; I was going to have a front row seat and get to mix the great Commonheart front man in an intimate setting. I was giddy. Tim said “let’s keep it quiet for now.” Around 10pm Tim confirmed that he was gonna make this happen.
After a long, long day of non-stop mixing, and having the venue packed for every single set we had, we finally made it to the last set. Apparently Tim had been spreading rumors around the festival during the evening but no one really knew what was coming. The venue was shoulder to shoulder packed. I could barely get around to set up the stage. Clinton showed up with a guitar with no pickup and his fancy black vocal mic. So I miked up his guitar and turned up the faders and the crowed went dead silent.
Clinton’s massive soulful voice and tender yet powerful playing filled every inch of the room. Few people spoke throughout the whole set. Everyone was fixated on this crazy honest man seated in front of them spilling his soul. It was late, we were all tired, and it was perfect.
After I tweaked the board I went and sat on stage left of him on the ground. It was the only place left with room. I looked up and like the crowed was fixated: I was 2 feet away from an unplugged, unadvertised, late night, spontaneous moment of musical magic. What a way to finish one of the best days of music I’ve seen. I’ll never forget it. That’s what DMF is really about.
Buffalo Rose // HughShows Stage at Foreland // Saturday at 4:00pm
Hugh Twyman (HughShows - Festival Organizer)
I have a unique position in that I have an inside view as the band coordinator for the festival and I am such a fan of the local music scene. This is my third year being given the opportunity to be lucky enough to do this, I am still awestruck on festival day at how much musical talent we have in Pittsburgh because it is concentrated, right there, right then. The last two years I literally had to stop at one point in the day and take a moment to reflect on what was happening. I get overwhelmed for a second (in the best way) at all that is going on around me.
Being a DIY festival, it cannot be overstated that the success of the festival depends on many, many people but in my opinion, mainly on the bands that perform. Without their professionalism, their willingness to be flexible, and the music that they bring, the event would be a disaster. The organizers, the volunteers, the fans are all great but my heart has always and will always be with these musicians.
Hugh Twyan // HughShows Stage at Foreland // All Dang Weekend!
The summer concert series is in full swing for the 3rd month in a row in Pittsburgh. As far as I can recall, this might be the busiest summer that I'v ever experienced in Pittsburgh. There are some big shows, a new outdoor venue in Lawrenceville hosting it's first event, The Deutschtown Music Festival, County Parks shows, plus a Final Friday concert with WYEP at Schenley Plaza. Here's a partial listing of events and a Spotify playlist for you to use to warm you up for July concerts.
Let's Talk About THE Song of the Summer... WYEP Hosts Make Their Predictions.
Okay, so we're not talking about the BLAZIN' HOT Top 40 song that you're gonna hear in every mall, radio station and roller skating rink in America, but we're aiming to make YOUR summer (you thoughtful, cool, WYEP listener) more audibly enjoyable with WYEP Host picks for best tunes of the season. ALSO make sure you get in on WYEP's Summer in the City Giveaway, where you're entered to win a bike, kayak or concert tickets when you donate $10 to listener-supported WYEP. Enjoy our hosts' summer song picks and see ya at WYEP's Summer Music Festival (This Saturday!)
Joey Spehar (Morning Mix Host) Song of the Summer: "Africa" by Weezer
Back in December, Mary Klym started a movement. The 14 year old didn’t organize a political march or write a letter to her congressman. No, she created a Twitter account called @WeezerAfrica. Klym just wanted her favorite band to cover Toto’s 1982 hit song, “Africa.”
In May, Weezer finally responded to Klym’s request with a striking Toto cover. In true troll fashion, though, the song they released was “Rosanna”- the opening song from Toto IV which happens to close with “Africa.” A few days later, bringing this long-standing meme full circle, Rivers Cuomo and company shared their faithful rendition of “Africa” using an image of one of Klym’s tweets for the single’s cover art.
Weezer’s version is very well done (of course) and its release prompted Toto guitarist Steve Lukather to sing its praises on Twitter saying, “Very flattered and thanks Weezer.” Lukather went on to say “We recorded this -2nd take NO rehearsal in 1981. Not that anyone cares.. hahaha... Hope we meet someday. Unless you hate us. hahaha.”
Weezer has a long repertoire of cover songs including “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs, a couple of Radiohead songs, and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” to name a few.
Cindy Howes (Evening Mix Host) Song of the Summer: "Crazy Classic Life" by Janelle Monae
When we know we’re going to have a wild night, my friends and I will jokingly declare “No one dies tonight!” before we clink our glasses. Since we’re closer to 40 than 20, we’re usually in bed by 11pm, but man, the memories of past summer adventures are alive and well. This is particularly true when I hear Monae’s “Crazy Classic Life” from her explosive new record Dirty Computer.
The thing about this song is that it’s one of those up-tempo bangers that has a very important message that revolves around the rights of women and people of color to be treated equally. This means that a black girl should have the same treatment as a white girl when making the same stupid mistakes in life. Monae’s message is that no one is perfect and we should all be allowed to be ourselves, mistakes and all, without judgement, no matter who we are.
The pop-centric “Crazy Classic Life” has a sweet R&B groove with a poignant rap verse rounding it out. There Monae puts into perspective what it’s like to be a black woman in a white world: “Me and you was friends, but to them, we the opposite/The same mistake, I'm in jail, you on top of sh-t” meaning that she and her white friend both get arrested for the same misdemeanor, but her punishment is harsher.
While the song is really fun and enjoyable and would sound great at your summer pool party, Monae has opened the window for people who feel the way she feels to be more understood by those who are learning about it.
Kyle Smith (Midday Host/Music Director) Song of the Summer: "Bad Bad News" by Leon Bridges
This is easily my favorite summer jam, the first single on Leon Bridges sophomore effort, Good Thing. "Bad, Bad News" has a soul groove, hip-hop beats and some funky jazz guitar that takes Leon’s music from the Sam Cooke era on his debut, to a summer jam made for the car and dance floor. Once you’ve spent time head bobbing along to the grooves, the lyrics like “I don't worry about people in my face - Hit 'em with style and grace and watch their ankles break" grab you and realize the song has depth and real meaning. Leon’s been quoted as saying the song is “an anthem about breaking past negativity and achieving greatness.” If you enjoy the track as much as I do, the video has a powerful message, about women being catcalled and rising up against harassment.
Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host) Song of the Summer: "Nameless, Faceless" by Courtney Barnett
Let’s shun the formulaic approach to a summer hit song and instead go with one that quotes Margaret Atwood! That’s what Courtney Barnett does in “Nameless, Faceless,” a track that balances bouncy pop and head-banging grunge rock. It’s driven by heavy percussion, pulsing bass, and Barnett’s distorted guitar and vocals – think Kurt Cobain’s feminine side. Barnett’s take on everyday events and emotions is so original that she makes the mundane feels sublime. Her wit is subtle and often self-deprecating, but when push comes to shove, watch out. She brilliantly defangs a snarky troll’s critique of her songwriting: “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you” he claims. “But you didn’t” she deadpans. Barnett treads the indelicate balance between men and women, quoting Atwood’s line “men are scared that women will laugh at them, women are scared that men will kill them.” All that’s missing is a tra-la-la.
Brian Siewiorek (Production Director, WYEP's Disembodied Voice, Fill-In Superstar Host) Song of the Summer: “Humility” by Gorillaz
Damon Albarn’s cartoon band plan to release a new album in late June, and the debut single, “Humility”, is my choice for song of the Summer. It has sort of an “easy breezy” sound to it, the kind of song that you want to turn up at a backyard barbecue or blast in the car with the windows down. Its strung-out synths and laid-back beat are expertly accentuated by the smooth guitar of jazz legend, George Benson. Albarn’s lyrics cast away the notion of isolation and vaguely warble about getting back with someone, or back to some place. He could easily be singing about the the end of Winter and cabin fever, and the return of the warmer weather and the activities it brings. That idea is furthered in the song’s music video, which features the band’s cartoon leader, 2D, roller skating alongside a beach in sunny California and passes by all kinds of people enjoying the sunshine in different ways. This is a feeling definitely relatable to most, which is why this song will be on all my Summertime playlists.
June 23, 1998 Mermaid Avenue, an album of previously unheard lyrics written by the late American songwriter Woody Guthrie, was released into the world forever changing the landscape of Americana music.
The UK singer/songwriter and activist, Billy Bragg teamed up with the alt-country band Wilco to bring these unheard songs to life. Bragg had been approached by Woody's daughter Nora Guthrie several years before about recording some of the thousand or so unrecorded compositions her father left behind. This was the first attempt at handing of these unfinished Woody songs to a new generation to discover and the results of the project were met with enormous critical acclaim. Mermaid Avenue is one of the most loved Americana albums of all-time inspiring fans and musicians alike. Billy Bragg & Wilco were successful in introducing the genius of Woody Guthrie's writing to a new generation and thus began the tradition of reviving his unwritten songs from the massive Guthrie archive.
To celebrate this momentous album's 20th anniversary, WYEP asked some of the best Pittsburgh roots musicians to share their thoughts about their favorite songs from Mermaid Avenue.
I first heard “California Stars” at the end of a marathon Wilco set at the 9:30 Club in DC (mid 2000s). A fan up front booed when he realized they weren’t going to play his request. Jeff Tweedy scolded him, “are you really booing us? We’ve played 22 songs tonight!” and then launched into “California Stars.” I didn’t know about the song or the Mermaid Avenue project at the time. But even at the end of a long set I knew this was something special.
For me, “California Stars” embodies the spirit of Mermaid Avenue. It’s a true example of what Gram Parsons called the Cosmic American Music. It’s a collaboration across space and time. A sound steeped in tradition but not bound by it, something Woody Guthrie understood well. Music that welcomes immigrants, refugees, trespassers and outlaws — also an indie band from Chicago and an English punk rocker. “California Stars” is all of this, two young lovers looking up at an american sky and dreaming of a better tomorrow. - Chet Vincent
"Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key"
After only discovering Wilco, Bragg, and Guthrie in my mid-twenties, I was a late in appreciating the slight twang and heavy emotional appeal of their music. I listened to their catalogs in reverse, hitting Mermaid Ave only when I was well into my time with The Red Western. Growing up I basically lived in the “woods” around my house, “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key” brings me back to summers of freedom where I had nothing but my own childish ambitions to guide me. The tiny wooded world was a universe for me and my friends and the circle of pines behind my house was our fort. This will always be a song that shows me music’s ability to paint a picture, a tendency that seems to creep its way into my own songwriting, and guides me to seek out music that is sensory, emotional, and honest. - Lauren DeLorenze (former Red Western)
"Walt Whitman's Niece"
Billy Bragg & Wilco recorded “Mermaid Avenue.” But to me, it’s a Woody Guthrie album. Of course, it’s his lyrics. Woody Guthrie always represented to me, the true American Songwriter. The opening cut is “Walt Whitman’s Niece”. Walt Whitman, the true American Poet. Whitman said “The American poets are to enclose old and new, for America is the race of races.” This record encompasses the old and new, and forces the listener to forget time.
This song “Walt Whitman’s Niece” creates no beginning and no end. What it does, is leaves everything up to the audience’s senses. The seaman, the narrator’s buddy, builds the scene. The steps, the building, and the girls. Spending all night with a couple of girls reading poems... or not. It’s the perfect poem. You can smell the sea, see the dirt on the steps, the claustrophobic feel of the long room, hear the girls laugh. There’s beauty, lust, and nowhere. So many unanswered questions. But the moment is quite clear. This is America. (I won’t say what America). - Bill Toms
"Christ for President"
The rambunctious energy of this tune is captivating. Jeff Tweedy’s signature vocal grit rouses enthusiasm over a steady, swampy groove that conjures visions of a campaign trail parade for Jesus Christ himself. Woody Guthrie’s lyrics nimbly adopt the stump-speech jargon we’ve all heard before, except these declarations are sincere. After all, this candidate is a man of the people with a proven track record. The collaboration results in a brilliant song of enduring relevance. Woody Guthrie bests any high-brow intellectual analysis with the plain-spoken truth. Christ is undoubtedly a radical political figure and his portrayal as a modern-day candidate forces us to examine the pandering and posturing that pervades our electoral process. I think Americans are fatigued by the lack of reverence and the flimsy moral courage of our elected officials. So Put the Carpenter in, he’s got my vote. - Jon Bindley (Bindley Hardware Co.)
"I Guess I Planted"
Billy Bragg did these lyrics for “I Guess I Planted” the best possible justice by crafting an infectiously catchy song that culminates in a lively, free-flowing sing-along. As a listener, this invites you to join in the celebration of exactly what he is speaking to- coming together, this time in the context of labor unions, to create something bigger than the parts themselves.
Woody Guthrie’s songs about the labor struggles of his time have always been my favorites of his. My dad was a union shop steward for decades, and we still ride our bikes down to the parade together every Labor Day. I always leave feeling inspired by the courage and the joyfulness of people coming together and realizing their collective power. That spirit is captured so nicely by this song, reminding us above all that “The big ones are made up of the little kind.” - Molly Alphabet
"The Unwelcome Guest"
It's apt that we can compare "the rich man's bright lodges" to Trump Towers today. Woody Guthrie wrote the lyric long ago, but history repeats. Woody, an unwelcome guest in a capitalistic society, a man with "no home" in a world where "the gambling man is rich and the working man is poor," strived to undo injustices. Billy Bragg recognized the prominent point of his own career as a moment of self-realization that he had "joined the tradition." And the tradition remains - an unwelcome guest to sing, to question, to expose, to condemn tyrants in a "playhouse of fortune" who have "stolen their gold" from someone else.
"My guns and my saddle
Will always be filled
By unwelcome travelers...
And they'll take the money
And spread it out equal
Just like the Bible
And the prophets suggest"
It is so befitting that Billy Bragg chose to put Woody's dream to this beautiful tune, this never ending waltz. - Tom Breiding
"Hesitating Beauty" is such a joyful tune, especially when considering the other songs on the album. Tweedy's voice is brilliant. The message of the song definitely illuminates a yearning for stability, which was more prevalent during Woody Guthrie's time, post WWII. As a listener in my early twenties, this song is especially relatable in that sense. Everyone wants the "perfect" life, and marriage is the easy answer. It's interesting that the male point-of-view in this song pinpoints the issue as Nora Lee's "hesitation" rather than her own will to not be married. As a songwriter, it would be fun to tell the tale from the woman's perspective, considering her thoughts and emotions. Either way, the song is cheerful and definitely one of my favorites off of the album. - Angela Autumn
In terms of trying to channel the spirit of Woody, I feel Ingid Bergman is the most representative. It's simple and ephemeral, though speaks volumes about creator and performer. Bragg brings Guthrie's infatuation with film star Ingrid Bergman to life in a mere minute 1:50. So quickly in fact, one may not recognize the mechanisms at work. Both artists are known for their political and protest songs, but also for their creation of topical material. The song highlights events taken from 1950's “Stromboli” staring Bergman, directed by Roberto Rossellini. In 1950 Guthrie was still living in the downstairs apartment at 3520 Mermaid Ave. in Coney Island. This song is indicative of one of the many facets of Woody, namely its coy enshrouded wit and insinuation. His open writing style leaves no apologies for lustful innuendo, and Bragg's cool metered delivery and abrupt ending doesn't show his hand. - Bryan McQuaid
June is always a great month for live music in Pittsburgh. The outdoor concert scene gets into full swing, with free County Park shows at South Park and Hartwood Acres, The Three Rivers Arts Festival is June 1st-10th, and many others in between. We wrap up June with the WYEP Summer Music Festival on Saturday, June 30th at Schenley Plaza.
There are concerts virtually every night this June, with multiple choices on several nights this month.
A few picks from me for the month of June:
See Mavis Staples at the Three Rivers Arts Fest June 1st
Alt-J is always a winner live, at this time it’s outdoors at Stage AE June 12th
Jenny Lewis is at The Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead June 12th
"Sprung from cages on highway ____, chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin' out over the line..."
Yes, it's highway nine to which Bruce Springsteen memorably referred in his classic "Born to Run." Bruce often uses numbers in his lyrics, from the "Eighth Avenue sailors" and the "five quick shots" from "Lost in the Flood" off of Greetings From Asbury Park to "Man, it's just one and one make three" from his most recent studio album (High Hopes) and the song "Frankie Fell in Love."
We decided to run through many of The Boss' numbers from one to one billion used in Springsteen lyrics throughout his catalog.
Click on the presentation to advance the slides manually (or use the → or ↓ keys). You can also click the play button to have it run automatially.
The startling news came on April 9th that Lindsey Buckingham had been fired as guitarist for Fleetwood Mac. However, the band announced that guitar duties on a fall tour — which is scheduled to hit Pittsburgh on November 1st — would be taken over by Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House.
It is certainly notable that the newly-announced guitarists have such high profile resumes. The last time Buckingham was out of the band, from 1987 to 1995, he was replaced by Billy Burnette and Rick Vito—both musicians with impressive credits (and, in Burnette’s case, an impressive pedigree; he is the son and nephew, respectively, of rockabilly pioneers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette), but nowhere near as well-known as Campbell and Finn.
The hiring of Campbell and Finn made us here at WYEP think of other instances in which a renowned, established musician was brought in as a touring member of a famous band. Of course, many artists have brought in famous collaborators for appearances at benefits, festivals, or even otherwise run-of-the-mill concerts. At the 1985 Live Aid benefit alone, Thomas Dolby played keyboards for David Bowie, Sting sang with Dire Straits, Pat Metheny played guitar with Santana, the Thompson Twins performed with Madonna, and Keith Richards and Ron Wood backed up Bob Dylan on guitar.
But we didn’t want these one-shot appearances. We wanted genuine touring band only, musicians who performed on a real tour as a member of the group.
We also ruled out musicians who appeared on studio recordings with that band. This eliminated Adrian Belew with both David Bowie and Talking Heads (as Belew played guitar on Bowie’s Lodger album and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light) and Johnny Marr with Modest Mouse (Marr was on the band’s 2007 release We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank).
We thought of seven other instances of Famous Fill-Ins. Here’s what we came up with.
1. The Grateful Dead, with Bruce Hornsby on keyboards (1990-92)
On July 26, 1990, Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland died of a drug overdose. By that time, Bruce Hornsby had already notched six top 40 hits as a headline performer with his backing band The Range. Hornsby was invited to join the Dead on piano to augment the sound of their new keyboardist Vince Welnick (who could also be considered for this list as he was formerly a member of The Tubes and never made a studio recording with the Dead despite performing with them until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995 and the group’s subsequent demise). Hornsby ended up performing over 100 concerts with the Grateful Dead, continuing with them through March 24, 1992. After parting ways with the Dead as a touring member, Hornsby resumed his career as a solo artist. Although he never returned to the pop charts, Hornsby has had a solid career as a critically-acclaimed singer, songwriter, and performer.
Watch Hornsby’s entire first show with the Grateful Dead on September 15, 1990 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hornsby is on piano; Vince Welnick is on synthesizer.
2. The Pogues, with Joe Strummer as frontman (1991-92)
The Pogues merged traditional Irish sounds and stories with a punk rock sensibility, but frontman Shane MacGowan had become erratic due to heavy drinking and drug use. The band fired him in September 1991, and they turned to the producer of their previous album (1990’s Hell’s Ditch) to fill in as their singer: Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash. Strummer only intended himself as a seat-warmer in the frontman gig until the band figured out their future plans, although some hoped the arrangement would be permanent. In fact, the traveling Lollapalooza festival had The Pogues with Strummer on a short list to book for its second outing during summer of 1992. After Strummer bowed out of the band, The Pogues’ tin whistle player Spider Stacy took over as lead singer. (The band would break up in 1996 and then reunite with MacGowan in 2001.) Joe Strummer would go on to form The Mescaleros in the later 1990s to back him for three albums until his death on December 22, 2002.
Listen to a concert with Strummer fronting The Pogues at the London Forum in December 1991:
3. Neil Young, with Booker T. & The MG's as his backing band (1993)
In the fall of 1992, at a massive tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden, three of the members of the legendary Stax Records house band, Booker T. & The MG’s, were backing many of the musicians paying tribute to the rock icon. Neil Young was among those performing, and at the event, he asked if they would tour with him the following year as his backing band. The tour was a bit of a hodgepodge, with Blind Melon as opening act and, on some dates, Soundgarden. (To be fair, Booker T. Jones and Donald “Duck” Dunn of the band did later appear on Young’s 2002 album Are You Passionate?, but we’ll still include them on this list, as it wasn’t the full band appearing on a record with Neil.)
Watch a full concert with Neil Young backed by Booker T. & The MG’s in July 1993 at the Torhout Festival in Belgium:
4. Squeeze, with Aimee Mann as guitarist/singer (1994)
Following Aimee Mann’s 1993 solo debut album, she performed acoustically while doing a radio interview. Squeeze’s Chris Difford was among the radio audience and contacted Mann by sending a fax to the radio station. Although it took her a few days to respond (when she did, Difford reportedly asked her, “Did they deliver that fax by Pony Express?”), they soon became friends. Eventually, the connection resulted in an invitation for her to join Squeeze as a temporary member of the band for a 20 or so date acoustic tour in 1994. (And, as above with Neil Young and Booker T. & The MG’s, Squeeze’s Difford and Glenn Tilbrook sang background vocals on Mann’s subsequent album, 1995’s I’m With Stupid; however, since it wasn’t the full band, it still fits our criteria here.)
Hear a full concert of Squeeze with Aimee Mann in Chicago’s Grant Park on July 4, 1994:
5. Iron & Wine, with Marketa Irglova and Rosie Thomas as backing vocalists (2011)
When Iron & Wine released the Kiss Each Other Clean album in January 2011, band leader Sam Beam seemingly wanted to make a great impression performing live. He’s “pulling out all the stops to promote the release,” according to Seattle singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas at the time. Beam enlisted Thomas and Marketa Irglova (the Oscar-winning songwriter of The Swell Season and Once movie fame) as backup singers for a tour supporting the new album. They made a lot of promotional stops, like on the TBS talk show Conan and at a number of radio stations (including a visit to WYEP!), and performed a series of regular concerts through the spring. On some dates, one of the backing singers wasn’t available—sometimes subbed by Beam’s sister Sarah Simpson or, at the Bonnaroo festival on June 12, 2011, by Minneapolis vocalist Aida Shahghasemi.
6. The Decemberists, with Sara Watkins on fiddle, guitar, percussion, and vocals (2011)
During the same period that Iron & Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean was released (January 2011), the Portland, Oregon group The Decemberists debuted their sixth album The King Is Dead. When they kicked off “The Popes of Pendarvia World Tour” after the album release on January 24th at New York’s Beacon Theater, the band had a temporary member in tow: Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins. Watkins would sit in with the group during the entire tour, and she later commented about her experience playing with The Decemberists, “It was refreshing; it was a great way to wipe my slate clean and tap into who I was.”
7. The Black Crowes, with Jackie Greene as guitarist and singer (2013)
Jackie Greene started his career as a talented if Dylanesque singer-songwriter from central California, but he’s undergone a few notable metamorphoses over the years. In the mid- to late-aughts, Greene began playing guitar with Phil Lesh & Friends. In 2012, he continued his Dead connection by forming a short-lived trio with Bob Weir and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. Meanwhile, Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, who had been serving as a guitar player for the Black Crowes, had returned to his main band. So, when the Crowes decided to return to the road in 2013, Robinson tapped Greene to step into the fold. Greene toured with the Crowes for the better part of a year (including a summer run with Tedeschi Trucks Band that stopped at Stage AE here in Pittsburgh). Despite the fact that the Black Crowes announced the band’s dissolution in early 2015, Greene remains listed as a band member on the official Black Crowes website like an insect frozen in amber. Greene, however, has been on the move since his stint as a touring member of the Crowes with solo recordings as well as forming the band Trigger Hippy with other ex-Crowes and Joan Osborne.
Listen to an entire concert by The Black Crowes with Jackie Greene on guitar from their last concert (December 14, 2013, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco):
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