50 min read

Speaking with some of the world's greatest session musicians, and more

Full, exclusive interviews with iconic players who helped create many of the biggest hit records of the last half-century ― and who will perform live in Savannah next week.
Speaking with some of the world's greatest session musicians, and more
L to R: Postell, Kortchmar, Wachtel, Sklar, and Kunkel ― The Immediate Family

End-of-the-week posts here at Wicked Messenger are usually reserved for thematic collections of things which grab me a certain way, and which I feel might happen to grab some of you as well. “Points To Ponder,” as it were. Today’s installment is a bit different, however.

Awhile back, I accepted a freelance assignment from the folks over at South Magazine, a glossy publication I have occasionally penned pieces for in the past. This particular assignment was to craft a feature article about an upcoming, two-day live music and cinema event taking place in Savannah on April 25 and 26. Part of the ongoing “Me, Myself & Us Concert Series” helmed by locally-based singing guitarist Thomas Claxton, the three-part event includes a live concert by the internationally acclaimed classic rock band known as the Immediate Family, a rare public screening of the recently released full-length documentary on the history of that band and its celebrated members, and a “masterclass” with some of those members where they will share first-person tales from their storied careers as some of the most in-demand studio and road musicians of all time in the genres of rock and roll, country, soul and pop.

Here’s the trailer for that new and highly enjoyable rock doc.

The Immediate Family is made up of guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel and guitarist Steve Postell. Collectively, they have helped create timeless hit songs as well as underappreciated gems for scores of A-List musical acts of the past half-century.

In preparation for writing that feature, I interviewed three of the band’s members, plus the director of the documentary, and the concert promoter. In varying degrees, I found each of those conversations to be fascinating, and was looking forward to including a good bit of all of them in that article. Unfortunately, in the end, the space I was allotted in that publication was limited to around 700 words ― barely enough to explain the totality of the event, introduce the participants and offer readers a few brief sentences on why they might want to consider attending one or more components of this somewhat elaborate installment of the concert series. When all was said and done, there simply was no room to include much of anything these folks had to say about their lives, their careers, their band, and the film which has now enshrined and contextualized their accomplishments for posterity.

So, if you’d like to get the basic facts on this noteworthy two-day event, by all means feel free to read that incredibly pithy piece here.

And, if you’re already intrigued enough to consider attending one or both nights of the shows, you can learn more and purchase tickets for the April 25 live concert here, and for the film screening and masterclass here.

But, if you want to delve deeper into the how, when and why of this group, the film, and the local impresario who’s responsible for taking the major financial risk to put on such an ambitious undertaking, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the following five interviews. It was a treat to speak with these folks, and I have only edited these transcripts lightly for clarity and grammar.

I should note that normally, these longer, more in-depth posts are for paid subscribers only. However, because I greatly respect and admire the particpants and the effort which has gone into this, and because I feel it’s important for as many people as possible to know about this in advance, I'm making this specific post available to the general public. Please feel free to share a link to this longform article with anyone you feel might appreciate it.

And please consider becoming either a free, or better yet, a paid subscriber! You'll get full access to everything I post (including tons of stuff the free members don't receive), and you will help me to pay my rent by doing something I love. Paid subscriptions are as little as $4.16 per month, which comes out to about 25 cents per article, podcast or radio show. A steal, I tell ya...

Oh, and by the way, if you make it all the way to my interview with documentarian Denny Tedesco, those who wish to purchase a deluxe, expanded Blu-ray copy of the new Immediate Family doc can learn how to get a special discount, just for Wicked Messenger readers!


~ Jim


Instantly recognizable by his long, white beard and laid-back demeanor, Lee Sklar is considered one of the finest bass guitarists alive today. He’s recorded and/or toured with everyone from Phil Collins and Toto to James Taylor and Tracy Chapman. Lee is a baaddass, and a heck of a nice guy. He spoke with me by phone, from parts unknown.

Wicked Messenger: Thanks so much for making the time to speak with me.

Leland Sklar: Of course. My pleasure!

Are you looking forward to this two-day event?

It will be a lot of fun! I love playing with Thomas, and it seems like these events he's putting on are going great. It’s a good thing to be involved with.

How did you and Thomas first meet? I know he has been attending NAMM (a massive annual, California-based trade show organized by the National Association of Music Merchants) for years. Was it there?

We were first connected through Alan Friedman, who is our band’s accountant and business manager. He is also a musician, and so we did a gig with Alan, and Thomas was singing with Alan’s group. Alan is a great guy and very fun to be around, and so events like that make for a really nice combination of folks. So, Thomas and I became friends through that meeting. We may have met before at the NAMM show or someplace, but that show of Alan’s comes to mind. He and I hit it off immediately there and have been in touch since then. He’s come out to some of the things we’ve been doing, and he’s one of those guys where it seems like we’ve known each other for a long time, you know what I mean? It’s hard to pin down, because it feels so natural ― like we have always been there.

You started out very young as a classically trained pianist, and I can’t help but wonder what a pre-teen Leland Sklar would have thought of the notion that in the year 2024, he would be an internationally respected bassist who has toured far and wide around the globe and performed and recorded with untold numbers of the finest songwriters and musicians of not only his generation, but of subsequent generations as well.

Well, first off if somebody had said that I would still be alive in 2024, that would have been amazing. When you were a kid, that would have sounded like a thousand years in the future! It’s really quite shocking when you realize your whole life seems like it’s only been about 15 years long, but it has been so much more than that. I will be 77 in a month-and-a-half. It would be really hard to fathom, because even at that time, the mere idea of being in a band was unique – let alone having a career! Even when you were playing in clubs around Los Angeles, it was hard to imagine you could parlay that into anything even approaching a career.

I try to enjoy every day as best I can, and I still have the same amount of enjoyment and enthusiasm whenever the phone rings. Because it kind of gets into your DNA. I am on the road with Lyle Lovett right now and we have a couple more weeks of gigs before our tour ends in June. And let me tell you, even at my age now, I am out on the road, and I love it! (laughs) I am grateful that I took the route I did, as it has afforded me the opportunities to meet the musicians I have worked with over the years. I am still enthusiastic and excited about this lifestyle, and I don’t see an end in sight. As long as I am ambulatory and can still play well, I will only stop when they stop calling me and offering me jobs. I’m sure not gonna be the one to put an end to it!

Here’s Lee chatting with Lyle Lovett on the road a couple of years back.

The only time I have been lucky enough to see you play live was last March, when you played Savannah’s Johnny Mercer Theatre with Lyle Lovett’s Acoustic Group. Have you played here before? If so, what do you recall from your visits?

I think I have been there many times with different people. With James Taylor and many other artists. It’s one of the more beautiful cities in this country. I am excited I will get to come back and be there for a couple of days this time. When you are on the road, everything is compartmentalized. You’re traveling constantly. That’s the hard part. When you talk to folks back home, they assume it’s like you’re on vacation. They don’t realize, we’re at work! The day is all sound check and travels and all the things that come with that, so there is usually not a lot of time to enjoy all the cities you are passing through. I am hoping this time I will have the chance to get out and run around Savannah and see some of the things I have not seen before. Just take it all in.

It is frustrating at times because you find places that seem really interesting, and you try to give yourself a memo to get back there at some point. But generally, that doesn’t happen. When you are finally back home, you are tired and just want to enjoy being home. We’ll be in Savannah for a couple of days with Thomas’ event, but it seems like our schedules are filling up with different things which surround the performance ― like masterclasses and stuff which will consume more time. But that’s cool, too, as I love doing that stuff. I have gone to Berklee and taught masterclasses there and at a number of clinics around the country. When I do stuff like that, it’s not so much about showing them how you play. The people that show up for those kinds of things are usually decent players already. It’s more like a Q&A where I can share interesting experiences with people who are fresh at having a career in music. There are a lot of unique opportunities to share knowledge I’ve learned along the way, which is not the sort of thing you’ll find in a textbook. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out while we are there.

I’m assuming that you use the masterclasses to pass along practical wisdom from your decades in the trenches ― at both the lower levels and alongside superstars?

To me, that is really what we have to offer at this point. To sit there and show someone a mixolydian scale is bullshit. But for young people or those new to their instruments to be able to sit down with someone who has been doing it for 50 or 60 years is something else entirely.

I get guys who ask what it was like to make the Spectrum LP with Billy Cobham, and to be able to tell them what it was like to stay up for ten days to make an iconic album, rather than demonstrating technical stuff on my bass, that’s really special. I am not a technical player. I can do it, but that’s not what or how I think about it. These masterclasses tend to take on a life of their own. The Q&A sessions – all it takes is a couple of really good questions, and then it’s off and running. I have done Q&As in the past that they hoped would last for an hour, and we wound up talking for five hours, because it was fun for all involved. Plus, it will be fun to be with the band and play the show as well, So, for me, it’s really the best of everything the way this whole two-day event has been laid out.

Never heard drummer Billy Cobham's supremely intense, landmark jazz-rock fusion LP Spectrum? It's his solo debut as a bandleader, and features Leland's bass playing on four of its 9 tracks. Recorded completely live in just two days, it's a masterpiece of the genre.

And you’ll also be in attendance for the film screening, correct?

We’ll all be there for the film screening. I have been to tons of the screenings, and I love doing the Q&As after folks see the movie. That really gets things flowing, because they have just seen the movie and learned about a lot of different projects we have all been involved in over the years. So, that’s a great time for good questions.

I have a feeling many, or perhaps most of the folks who see this film will be quite unaware of ― and unprepared for ― the breadth of popular, recorded music and major concert tours that the members of the Immediate Family have played key roles in over the past several decades.

Oh yeah, you’re correct. You get the people where the first thing out of their mouths is, “You guys are the soundtrack of my life.” They were just never aware of it. They had no idea how this music was actually created and then delivered to them. They themselves were the end result of making the music, which is the audience! For the most part, the people at the screenings seem to be most curious as to what the whole scene was about. What it was like living in Laurel Canyon in the 1970s and everything that factored into the writing and performing and recording of this music. It’s really great to be able to expose the audience to the process that has been there, hiding in the background for their whole lives.

It’s like, watch a movie ― any movie — and try to imagine there’s absolutely no music in it whatsoever. If you suddenly saw a labored scene, it would feel so boring. But then you add a Jerry Goldsmith score behind it, and suddenly you have emotion and suspense. As viewers, the music comes with the territory. You’re looking at the screen visually, without really considering just how important the music is to the entire experience. And you know, the documentary is just a tiny little element of what we’ve done. The Blu-ray version of the film just came out, and it contains an additional three hours of interviews. Many with lots of people who didn’t wind up making it into the final cut of the film, just for time limitations. I don’t even really know all that’s on those discs, and I can’t wait to check it out.

What surprised you most about the documentary when you first saw it? Since there are many interviews in the film which were conducted one-on-one with individual musicians, did you wind up learning anything about your bandmates and friends that you had never known before ― simply from those private discussions?

Oh, absolutely! That was one of the things that was really revealing. I have known Russ Kunkle for 55 years now, and in the film, when he is talking about his brother setting him (as a child) on his lap to play some drums, and what he went through in school… Well, I had no idea! Our relationship was always about music. When Kootch or Waddy was talking about their history, as I watched the movie I was fascinated. It was all new information to me! That’s why I am especially curious to see the extra footage. The entire roundtable discussion we all had together which you see part of in the film ― that went on for quite awhile. I don’t remember everything we talked about, because we spent an entire day in the studio just talking to each other. To now be able to sit and watch it as an observer and not be in the middle of it will be a real experience for me.

You mention in the documentary that the mere fact that you and the rest of the Immediate Family were openly credited on some of those first few major L.A.-based albums you were involved in was responsible for your subsequent visibility and notoriety among professional musicians, and among folks like myself who grew up as inveterate readers of liner notes. When you first started earning a living in the music business, were you at that time already familiar with the concept of how the world of talented but essentially anonymous session musicians worked?

Well, first off, all of us in the group we really credit so much of what we have been able to do to Peter Asher. It was he who put our names on James Taylor’s albums. Before that, like, back in the ‘60s, maybe you would buy an album that the Wrecking Crew played on, and on the back there would be liner notes by maybe a music critic of the time, but those liner notes were all about the featured artist ― never about the backing musicians. So, I went from almost zero experience in the recording studio to being a first-call player in town. My experience up to that point was strictly playing in nightclubs. I had only done one session in the studio, and that was the band I was in! My own band, who went in for one day and cut some quick demos. Then, my phone started ringing and I was getting called for work!

How did you first learn of doing sessions as a possible career path, as opposed to being a person who is a member of a single band that’s focused on becoming successful based solely on their own shows and records?

A number of the early things that I was getting asked to play on were back when the Wrecking Crew guys were still regularly working. Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, those guys. I would stay quiet and learn from them on the job. It came together pretty quickly, because I had years and years of experience as a player. But I did not necessarily understand how records were made.

Since you did not already possess a working knowledge on how serious records were actually created, how did you achieve success in that field so quickly?

You just kept your ears open and your mouth shut! That was really a golden age for music recording. I was literally doing three different sessions a day, five or six days a week. I look back now and I played on 2,500 albums. In this day and age, it would be physically impossible to do that. But back then, if you were good enough, you could.

James Taylor became a benchmark for how to do it in the music business. The labels were signing singer-songwriters left and right. They would see our names on the James Taylor albums, and they would track us down, hoping we could do for them something similar to what we had done for James. Some of the artists we were hired to work with were incredible ― like Linda (Ronstadt) and Jackson (Browne), and some were not. But we were just trying to stay busy.

So, you were as enthralled, just as I was at a young age, with the beguiling mystery that surrounded the seemingly magical world of record-making.

Absolutely. I would sit there as a kid, looking at records, trying to take as much information as I could from the jacket. And as our time began to come in, that did not stop me reading and seeing certain names popping up here and there and noting relationships where certain combinations of people were teamed up. That’s how I came to understand the funk movement from the Bay Area, and David Hood and the Muscle Shoals guys and the James Jamersons and the Bob Babbits… You would start to notice and understand that there were regional units of players, which eventually came to be more inclusive.

When I met these guys later in life, it was like I knew them already. Because I had seen their names and heard them play for decades on vinyl. When I was first introduced to David Hood it was like we had known each other forever, even though we’d never met. The first time I met Phil Collins, I was playing on a Lee Ritenour album. But we knew each other’s discographies so well. That’s really unique to this community. That you knew people because of the totality of their body of work.

The first Phil Collins LP that Leland played on. He joined Phil's band for the world tour to promote it, and they worked together in the studio and on the road for several more years.

I understand that while Waddy Wachtel won’t be on hand for this Savannah date, the great Elliot Easton (from the Cars) is onboard in his stead.

The problem we had is that Waddy has been Stevie Nicks’ musical director since the Buckingham Nicks days. He’s never not been by her side. These shows we were going to do had been cleared by her people, but then he suddenly had to make up a bunch of Covid dates with her. Waddy has been going through a lot of angst over not being on hand for these shows. But Elliot being available and that allowing us to now be able to throw three or four Cars hits into a set is giving us more flexibility to do gigs even when Waddy can’t be there sometimes because of his prior commitments.

How did you all first wind up playing with Elliot?

I have worked with Elliot in the past. We are all friends. He is in the (Rock and Roll) Hall of Fame, was in a great group, and is a great guy. He had been coming to our gigs as an audience member, and so we asked him, and he was happy to do it. The audience is disappointed not to see Waddy, because he is a major presence, and he brings the ability for us to play the (Warren) Zevon stuff ― which he sings ― but it has not hurt our show. It has just refocused it a bit. I think the people will enjoy having the experience to see Elliot, as he is really special.

Take it from Slash, Elliot Easton is one of the greats.

 Most people have no idea what a stunningly versatile musician and composer he is. I helped organize and played drums in a one-night-only Cars Tribute Band, and the sheer difficulty and tastefulness of Elliot’s parts that our own guitarist had to learn and emulate was fairly breathtaking. 

The way Elliot thinks is very orchestral, and that’s why his parts are so unique. Elliot is a great addition to our band, and we tell the audience he is the “Immediate Family Car.” (laughs)

Are you yourself a Cars fan?

The Cars were such an interesting group. I loved the fact that they were still one of the very best groups for videos. I felt bad because at one point Ric Ocasek had called me to work on a solo album with him, but then he died.

Tell me a bit about what folks can expect from this particular show. Will it all be material from the new Immediate Family album, or will you be performing your own versions of well-known and beloved songs drawn from a variety of the legendary and iconic albums you all have played on in one aggregation or another?

It’s a pretty eclectic show. We have stuff from our new album and the previous one. The joke is that we’re a cover band that does all originals ― because we were the ones who helped write them! (laughs) We’ll do “Dirty Laundry,” “All She Wants to Do is Dance,” “New York Minute,” three or four Cars tunes… Honestly, it just depends on the length of the set, but our shows cover the breadth of all our careers. For us, these gigs are all about having fun, and enjoying the opportunity to be with your brothers that you’ve played with for so long. The crowd is surprised to see all the different things that we’ve played on, and they usually wind up doing a lot of singing along. We just finished playing the Rock Legends Cruise, and so many people came up and said, “This is our favorite band, because this is our music.” It is actually very emotional for a lot of people, because these are often the songs that they heard at their marriages and which may have gotten through a divorce or other dark moments over the course of their lives, you know?

Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to doing or seeing while you’re in Savannah?

Well, I am just hoping the catering will be really good! (laughs) I enjoy food, and when you’re on the road most of the year as we are, you wind up having to settle for whatever is on hand ― which can be disappointing. I feel like Savannah is known for good food, and I am hoping to get to try some of it.


Though he’s a bit younger than the rest of his bandmates, Steve’s lengthy CV speaks for itself. A singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer, he’s been a member of country legends Pure Prairie League, toured as musical director for theatrical vocalist Lea Salonga (Tony Award-winner for Miss Saigon), composed scores for film, TV and off-Broadway productions, and written jingles for major commercial brands. He’s recorded and/or played with John Oates, Jennifer Warnes, Eric Andersen, Neil Young, Maroon 5, and many others.

Wicked Messenger: Will this be your first time performing in Savannah?

Steve Postell: Actually, Thomas brought me into the concert series in the “Grestch Room” [Editor’s Note: He’s referring to the District Live venue in the Plant Riverside complex, which is decorated with vintage Gretsch guitars.] We had a lot of fun. I was there with James Raymond, who is David Crosby’s son. He and I have played together for a long while, and we had a great time in Savannah.

Do you recall how you first came to be introduced to Thomas Claxton and his music?

We were asked by (famed microphone manufacturer) Telefunken to do a special benefit concert at their facility in Connecticut, which was put together by our business manager Alan Friedman. He has a band that performed the night before we did, and Thomas was singing in that band. That’s how we met. A few years ago, they put out an EP or a DVD of our part of that show called Live at the Telefunken Soundstage.

Here are three Immediate Family performances from the benefit concert which took place the night Claxton and they first met:

What did you think of the final results of the Immediate family documentary?

It was great. They did a fantastic job. As objectively as I can, I think Denny (Tedesco) did a great job of representing an era and a time that needed to be captured for posterity.

How often does the Immediate Family get to play live these days?

Covid obviously put things to a quick halt for a time, so we don’t play as much as we’d like. The only time we really stopped was for the first two years of the pandemic. But we play on and off all the time. We just came off a ten-show tour last week. Then we’ll play in Savannah, and then we’ll get together to play again in May. We’ll take a little break after that because some of us have other tours lined up in  the summer, and then we’ll all get back out there again.

It must be tricky to coordinate everyone’s schedules in a band of this sort.

We fit these Immediate Family shows in around all of our schedules. Waddy’s often out with Stevie, Lee and Russ are out with Lyle Lovett, and I am out with David Crosby’s old band, which still plays gigs. We look at all of our dates and find the openings when it all synchs up. That’s nothing new ―it’s always a juggling act when you’re dealing with touring musicians.

I was speaking with Lee Sklar earlier, and we talked about how quite unaware he was of the actual mechanics of record-making when he first started getting calls to play on fairly major sessions. He and I both devoured liner note details from an early age though, and that helped a bit. What was your introduction to session work like?

Like yourself, I knew who was engineer at what studios and who played on what songs from when I was quite young. Because if you really paid attention, that information was available. When you get into the room, however, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. My very first session was playing with a 30-piece orchestra. It was either for a commercial or a film ― I can’t recall which ― and there was a rhythm section as well. So, there was no kind of training to prepare one for that. You show up, here’s the music, and then you just gotta start and be on your game. You gotta do your thing.

So, how does one prepare for such a high-pressure situation, where everyone’s listening extremely carefully to every note you’re playing, and a lot of money is on the line for every minute spent in those rooms? What separates folks like the members of the Immediate Family from other folks who might technically be better at their given instruments than you guys, but yet could never do what you all do?

It's a complicated question. Some of it is temperament. I have talked about this with Leland. Some people play better when the recording light goes on, and some people freeze. That’s depending on your personality. I had also done a lot of recording of myself before I started doing sessions. My father gave me a 2-track recorder when I was a teen. So, I at least wasn’t panicked when they were recording. I think in terms of how to prepare, it’s never changed. You gotta practice so much that it becomes second nature. Back in the day, not so much anymore, there were some things that we had to be able to sight-read very well.

Being in New York and doing a lot of sessions in the ‘80s, it was really varied. I would do a Broadway show, a flamenco session, then a pop record, then an R&B thing, then a TV commercial. The only time I would ever recommend someone else is if it was a heavy jazz gig. Like a big band gig. That really wasn’t my forté. I would tell them, “I think you really want such-and-such for this gig.” Other than that, if I show up and it’s a bossanova, you do that. I had to be as well-versed as possible in a lot of different styles ― which is different than certain people who are really known for doing a certain thing and then get called to come and do that thing. That’s a different kind of player.

Can you speak a bit about the very obvious camaraderie which exists between the guys in this group?

Camaraderie is really what this band is all about. Because the musical thing is a given and takes care of itself. The four guys other than myself have known each other for 50 years. For me, it’s 20 years. The name of the band is not inaccurate. We see each other socially, and we check in with each other constantly. We celebrate our birthdays together. It’s a very unique thing. It feels like a really deep brotherhood, and because of that, it makes the whole experience of playing in the band together a very, very rich one. Musically, of course, it’s phenomenal to play with this bunch of people, but it’s much more than that.

Given that you are all well-known for supporting other, more famous artists, how exactly did the idea of this particular group of individuals forming their own band come to be?

It literally happened without any discussion. What happened was that Danny got offered a record deal from a Japanese label. They wanted an album of him playing the hits he had written for other people over the years. He and I had gone to Japan with a different group, and I think he solidified the deal then. Later, he was putting the pieces together to make that record, and we were doing pre-production in my studio. He called his favorite people, which were Waddy and Leland and Russ, and every one of them was able to make it down to Jackson Browne’s studio to actually cut the record. It was pretty clear instantly to everyone there that we were the right people. The Japanese label put together a tour, and we were off and running. After three days of recording at Jackson’s and a month of overdubs, Danny named us the Immediate Family, and it seemed inevitable and self-evident. Around that same time, I had a gig booked at a place in L.A. called Bogie’s, and I said to the guys, “Why don’t we make that an Immediate Family show?” It really happened just like that. We never had a meeting to decide if we wanted to be a band. We just were.

Waddy’s slot in the lineup will be filled in by Elliot Easton for this Savannah date. Did you and he already know each other before he was invited to become an adjunct member of the group?

I actually had a benefit that I was doing for an organization and the bill was myself, Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins, Mike McDonald and Jeff Bridges. We wanted to do it acoustically because the staging involved a lot of moving parts. Elliot had sat in on a couple of songs and the light bulb just went on. I knew him, and I thought of him. But at the time, I did not realize that Elliot had played for awhile with the Creedence Clearwater guys [Editor’s Note: This was long after CCR’s rhythm section had struck out on their own without the group’s frontman and lead guitarist, John Fogerty, who refused to play his earlier songs in public.]. I was really impressed with his playing on that, and saw that he could play something very different from what he was known for in the Cars. We had a number of possible people that could do the gigs, and he was the logical choice, because he was free.

Here's a compilation of guitar solos from Easton’s time in that later incarnation of CCR.

 Back in the early 1980s, when the Cars were first coming to prominence, I always thought it was intriguing that if one were to isolate Elliot’s lead guitar fills and solos on those albums, his contributions actually sounded much more like traditional country and western or rockabilly licks than alternative rock music. The synthesizers and the drum sounds on those records are squarely new-wave, but he’s often playing Chet Atkins-style leads over a lot of those songs ― which always seemed to be lost on most listeners. Would you agree?

Elliot told me himself that was something of a point of contention between he and Ric (Ocasek, bandleader). Apparently, Ric wanted him to tone down the country influence in his playing. Ric also didn’t want anyone in the band to be singled out. You know, like some bands have their Keith Richards or their Joe Perry? The “guitar hero thing.” So, they underplayed Elliot on purpose. But they never would have sounded like they did without him.

Check out Easton’s spot-on Nashville-meets-Bakersfield guitar runs on this 1978 hit.

What can attendees of this show expect from the Savannah show’s setlist?

It’s a combination of hit songs we have each been a big part of, plus our own original material that we have written together. I don’t want to give all the songs away, because part of the fun is having the audience be surprised. But maybe 60 percent of the show is stuff folks will instantly recognize, and 40 percent is our own, newer material. We keep the storytelling or anecdotes to a minimum, but sometimes ― as we are doing in Savannah ― we also get to do a Q&A, and let people ask about what they want to know.

The music video for the latest single from the Immediate Family’s most recent album.

 How would you sum up the current state of the Immediate Family?

We have a new record out that we’re proud of, and this movie is something that will last forever. We are all really thrilled that it came out as well as it did. We are so happy to be coming down to play, because I think this kind of music has its place. You can’t see it performed live every day anymore and I am proud of being a part of something where we get to share this genre of music. Whatever you want to call it ― great rock and roll? I love sharing that with people. Our audiences seem to have a real appetite for it. And it’s a very communal experience. The people in our crowds who grew up on this music really miss it, and now they get to come hear it the way it was always supposed to be played.


Russell Kunkel is a bona fide legendary drummer and percussionist. A self-taught master of his instruments whose work can be heard on records by B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Reba McEntire, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Harry Chapin, J.J. Cale, Jimmy Buffet, and Bette Midler, among others. That’s him on Jackson Browne’s smash hit live LP Running on Empty. He also appears in the 1984 cult classic film This Is Spinal Tap as the late, great drummer Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs. He and Leland often play together as a rhythm section.

Wicked Messenger: Thanks for speaking with me, Russ. I am a big fan of your work over the years, and I appreciate the opportunity. Will this be your first time in Savannah?

Russ Kunkel: I do think I played there with Lyle Lovett’s Large Band at some point. I haven’t spent much time in Savannah and am looking forward to that. It appears that it might be a sophisticated southern town that is not in a hurry. Which I can totally relate to!

Well, it’s certainly a haven for drunkards and layabouts!


Here’s a recent clip of both Russ and Leland serving as Lyle Lovett’s rhythm section.

You have worked in the music industry for so long, and been a devoted fan since well before you became an in-demand session drummer. For you, have the technological advances in the fields of recording and music distribution removed a lot of the beguiling and mysterious nature of the business ― not only for the players, but for the listeners as well?

When we look backwards, it is amazing to note that when we had far less ability to have instantaneous responses at our fingertips, we were an unbelievably resourceful society. When we just had email, or you had to actually find your way to an address by the use of a map… Maps are wonderful things! I have just begun to start collecting them, and having an actual map that you can pick up and just look at is a marvelous sight to behold. Now, folks just ask Siri where to go. But we are extremely resilient and resourceful, and that is how we adapt, as a species.

The music business in the 1970s was the same way. We used the tools we had available to us. I remember the first “brick” mobile phone. It looked like a walkie talkie! Before that, if you needed to speak to someone and they were not at home or at a business that had a land line, you simply had to wait until the next time you saw them in person if you wanted to tell them something. And somehow, it all worked just fine. Robert Oppenheimer was able to create the bomb without the use of the internet. After watching that movie, I decided to get into quantum mechanics, and I went and got a couple of books and dived into it.

As young ones, we were new to the waters of the music business, and we were just happy to be in the moment. In the case of myself and Leland and Danny and Waddy, we were in the right place at the right time. It is that simple. We converged in Southern California at the same time, and we were given the gift of being able to play music with some of the most iconic singer-songwriters of the time. The list goes on and on forever. We were just plopped down together into a mecca of magnificent music and forced to rise to the occasion.

It was not by happenstance that all of us got to be in Southern California at the same time. We got there because we were good. Somehow our talents were viewed by influential people, and we got noticed. I played in a band at the Whiskey A-Go-Go and was seen by David Crosby. My ability to play and be noticed by people got me to where I was, and the same goes for Waddy, etc… So, we got there because we were good, but we also won the lottery. We were working with the Leonardo DaVincis and Cezannes of our time, when other musicians ― who were just as good as us ― were not. So, there was a bit of serendipity.

Rare footage of Kunkel in 1967, backing up a psychedelic, pre-metal incarnation of British rock legends Spinal Tap.

Did any of you all realize that at the time, or were you so busy going from gig to gig that is it only in hindsight you can see that you were some of the folks on the tip of that particular spear?

Listen, in hindsight, to answer your question: We pinched ourselves all the time and laughed about it. About how lucky we were. We pulled the handle on the one-armed bandit, and we didn’t squander it. To be in the room with Carole King and James Taylor ― it’s serious. Because they’re serious! The music they were putting out then was palpable. You could feel it. It filled the room. It propelled you to perform in a linear way, as opposed to a logical way. And we came up with the stuff that we did because were in that environment and we were being diligent about following the path they were laying down. It cannot be stressed enough how important their influence on us was. And it was like a circle. One would feed the other. Us being inspired by a James Taylor lyric inspired us to play a certain way, and that in turn inspired the same thing with Carole King or Linda Ronstadt or Jackson Browne.

Russ and Jim Keltner are both credited with drumming on the 1973 sessions which yielded this haunting and timeless track, while Russ is also credited with tambourine and bongos. He told me he honestly can’t remember who's playing drums on this cut, him or Keltner…

Leland said that one of the most interesting things for him about the film was that he learned things about his friends and bandmembers that had simply never come up in all your decades of friendship – was it illuminating for you to hear your other bandmates talk about themselves or their own viewpoints on things which had never occurred to you before?

Well, I definitely experienced some of the same feelings Leland referred to, in terms of learning things about my bandmates that I didn’t necessarily know. There’s a beautiful and touching moment in the film when Waddy speaks of losing his mom early on in his life. Now, Waddy can have a rough exterior, but in that moment, you can see his heart. It was just exposed. I didn’t know anything about that. When I first saw the cut they allowed us to watch, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it affected me physically. You know, if someone decides that telling a story about you and your friends is important, sometimes that’s hard to swallow. Because we are all just walking around looking through our own eyes and not feeling that we’ve done something especially important. Now that I’ve seen (the documentary) a few times, and that particular feeling has waned a good bit, I can glimpse and understand more about what I am watching.

The other profound feeling I got, and I don’t mean for this to sound morose, was that it reminded me of my own mortality. To see that there is a lot less time left on the clock than there was before. So, it’s not just my own mortality, but it’s everyone else’s, too. It’s not just joyous. I mean, at this point on my personal timeline… I mean, if I took a tape measure and ran it out to 90, I am a lot closer to 90 than I am to zero. It was a physical experience, seeing the film that first time. My wife was with me, and my hands started to sweat a little bit. And she asked if I was okay, and I said, “I think so.” But I was really emotionally moved by this film.

What moved you the most?

Well, it opens with James Taylor saying that our input cannot be overstated, and he said it three times. And for Don Henley… So, Don is a dear friend of mine. And he really is that person, you know? And it meant so much to me to see him be so candid. It’s a true testament to his caring about all of us. That these people would take the time to bare their hearts as to what they truly feel about us.

Coming back to Denny (Tedesco), he was able to make the segue between the Wrecking Crew and this band. But he didn’t know what the full story was until he started shooting. And the story was that everybody involved had their own individual story, and came from different places. The music that we started to play together has come to be called the music of a generation because of the thread which tied all the pearls together.

You mentioned Don Henley, and I was surprised to see him in the film, because he does not seem like a guy who is known for being the most effusive or complimentary guy.

I have to say this about Don: he doesn’t chit-chat. He only says something when it’s fucking important. When it’s saving Walden Pond, he’ll put his money and his mouth on that. Or when it’s going up in front of congress to fight for our ability as musicians and songwriters to continue to be paid fairly for our work. That’s when you’ll see and hear him speak. So, for him to make a point to talk about us and our creative contributions over the years says an awful lot to me.

At Immediate Family shows, when you play some of the older songs you guys had a hand in creating, does the band try to play the older material extremely closely to the fabled studio cuts, or do you drastically rearrange them or lean into improvisation to keep the material fresh?

We just rock ‘em up a bit. An example would be some of Danny’s songs that he wrote with Don, like “All She Wants to Do is Dance” or “Dirty Laundry.” Those songs are pretty keyboard heavy. But we don’t have a keyboard player. So we just make ‘em more rock. You recognize the same lyrics and melody, but we’re playing them our own way. In fact, we have recorded our own versions of all these songs that people know, and an album of those will be released in the near future. It’s being mixed right now. We make the tunes our own.

Are you as excited as the other members I have spoken with about welcoming Elliot Easton into the fold as an occasional fill-in for Waddy Wachtel?

So, Waddy is Stevie’s musical director and she has been touring like crazy. We have been forced to do some shows without him, which is not optimal. But we have found a wonderful new friend in Elliot. And, in the spirit of the Immediate Family, we’ve added three or four songs by the Cars. We play them our way as well, and the audience loves them.

Here Waddy backs Stevie Nicks at her 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Amazingly, Nicks was both 70 and suffering with double penumonia when she gave this performance!

Was there ever any notion of finding a dedicated male or female vocalist for the group, or did it always make sense for you all to handle that in-house, so to speak?

It was talked about, and the decision was made to keep the band the way that it was, and just do the best we can with what we have. Waddy has always wanted to sing more, Steve is a very competent singer, and Danny sings his own songs well, so we figured we had three vocalists already. And once we worked out the harmonies well, we honestly felt we did not need an additional, dedicated singer.

Is there anything you’d like to add that you feel is important for folks to know about the band, or this particular two-day event?

I would just like to say to the people of Savannah that supporting live music is paramount, as that’s how musicians make money these days. Not a lot, but at least dollars change hands ― which isn’t always the case anymore. At every turn of the path, the fast-moving pace of progress is trying to cut down more and more the amount of money we make from intellectual property, whether it’s being streamed, sold or bought, bought. And the live performance aspect of being a musician is the only thing that hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s growing a little bit. The two things that are growing have always been there: the buying of LPs and the performances. And that lets me know there’s still a chance for musicians. I just appreciate the people who come out to see live music and I hope the people in Savannah not only come out to the concert, but also come see the documentary. Plus, we may not always be playing with Elliot Easton. These are special shows, and you can tell your grandchildren about them, as they say. (laughs)

When you talk about the fact that the only way musicians can possibly make anything approaching a livable wage anymore is through live performance, I think there are still some people who don’t truly understand just how completely and utterly devasting the current distribution and sales model for recorded music has become in the internet age. And, how the global trend toward prioritizing convenience over cost has essentially bankrupted untold numbers of creative songwriters, vocalists and instrumentalists. For those folks who may read this interview, can you elaborate a bit on what you meant by that statement?

When the concept of an information database being available to anyone with a device for nothing or next to nothing ― when the goalpost got moved to there ― somehow music got lumped into that as well. Everyone got used to being able to look up a question on Wikipedia and getting back an instantaneous answer, and now they feel they should be able to type in the name of a song, any song, and get that for free as well. But it isn’t the same thing at all.

One is composed of the blood, sweat, and tears of real people. They are two totally different situations. Here’s another way of viewing this: if I want to buy an audiobook on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, I might have to pay $30 for it. Audiobooks are expensive. Why are LPs so much cheaper? Why aren’t they the same? The songs are worth less? It’s really out of balance, and I don’t know if it’s ever going to be corrected. Once the cat’s out of the bag and people are used to getting something for free, you’re likely never going to be able to convince them to pay for it.

You’re 75 now. Do you have any plans to retire from making music, or do you plan on going till the wheels fall off?

I’m gonna play music until I can’t anymore. You can make it a grind or you can choose to make it as a blessing. I’m playing with some of the very best musicians in the world! Why wouldn’t I want to do that?


Denny’s father Tommy Tedesco was a member of the fabled Wrecking Crew, the cream of the crop of Los Angeles-based studio musicians, whose nonstop work-for-hire sessions in the 1960s and 1970s led to various aggregations of that close-knit group of versatile players appearing on several hundred Top 40 hits by an incredibly wide range of musical artists. He is considered the most-recorded guitarist in history. In 2008, Denny completed work on a feature documentary revealing the hidden history of that mostly anonymous group of musicians, which won numerous awards at a number of influential film festivals. However, the high cost of obtaining the legal licenses required to include snippets of the Wrecking Crew’s musical performances in his film, delayed its official release by almost a decade. His latest film examines the Immediate Family, whose members’ own careers posit them as the true successors to the Wrecking Crew’s mantle.

Wicked Messenger: I was lucky enough to attend what I believe was one of the first several festival screenings of The Wrecking Crew, long before it was finally able to raise the funds for music clearances and see a full-fledged commercial release. This was at the Savannah Film Fest in probably 2008, and you were on hand to discuss the film afterwards. I was and remain a huge fan and proponent of the film, and was happy to see you tackle the Immediate Family band in the same manner. Congratulations on an engrossing and very well put-together documentary! Can you speak a bit about what you view as the key similarities and the key differences between those two unique groups of versatile and gifted session musicians?

Denny Tedesco: First of all, I remember that trip really well. It was my first time in Savannah, and I was blown away by the city.  I’m looking forward to coming back. The two generations are similar in what amazing and versatile musicians they all are, and how grateful they are to be able to make a living as musicians. My father, Tommy Tedesco, went to work for three-hour blocks of time. He and his peers were allowed to record up to three or four songs in that period. So, if they went to between three or four sessions a day, they would be bouncing around different studios with different artists. When the singer-songwriter era comes in, they started taking their time in the studios. Instead of record dates, they became recording projects. They could work on an album for a few weeks, whereas in the ‘60s that would have been a couple of days. So, the session guys in the ‘70s were able to make much greater contributions to the music, simply because of spending more time together with the artists. 

If you were part of the Wrecking Crew, you were so busy that you would never take a road gig. Road gigs in those days were not well paid and were also quite hard. If you left town, someone could easily fill your seat and then you might be out of work (for good) with that producer. So, you only left town if it paid a lot of money or if you really needed the gig. The guys in the Immediate Family started in the early ‘70s.  These guys were at their early parts of their careers. So, when Peter Asher asked them to take the band on the road after they recorded the album, it made total sense. The other thing that happened is that LPs started listing credits (for the players and the production staff) which allowed not just the public but other artists to start noticing the same names popping up over and over again. The Wrecking Crew didn’t often (publicly) receive credit by name.

The trailer for Denny’s excellent doc The Wrecking Crew.

Was it difficult to convince the musicians who make up the Immediate Family to participate in such a look back at their lives and careers? What sort of initial response did you receive from the more visible performers/frontpeople who appear in the film as well, such as James Taylor, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, etc…? Were they generally eager to speak about their relationships with the musicians who played such an integral role in the creation of some of their best-known works, or did it require some cajoling in order to get such a wide variety of those folks on board? 

The guys were really cool about it. I have the luxury of being the son of a very well-respected studio guitar player and the Wrecking Crew documentary was a great success among the music community. So, I had that going for me. When it came to the artists, I never had it so easy. Whenever someone reached out, it was merely to ask, “When and where?” The artists grew up with these guys and collectively, they spent years in the studios or on the road with them. They loved sharing those stories.

I am told by Leland that there are over three hours’ worth of bonus materials on the physical release of the film, and he says he can’t wait to see all that stuff because he wound up learning a lot about his dear friends from watching your film that he had never come to understand about them after (in some cases) 50 years of working and socializing together closely. What was the most surprising thing which you yourself as a director and researcher learned or came to better understand over the course of making this movie?

I had to buy all the LPs for their cover artwork, and to research for the film. Even though this was my era, I was still blown away by learning about all the various albums that I didn’t know they’d played on. What we forget is the other songs on albums that we simply don’t hear anymore. We just hear the hits on Spotify or radio stations. So, I started to play these albums (all the way through) and was blown away by the additional songs ― which were amazing, but which didn’t make it commercially.

Have you been attending a lot of screenings of the film, and discussing it with audience members afterwards? If so, how often has this been occurring, and is there any sort of common denominator which you have noticed running through these screenings, as far as what seems to pique audiences’ curiosities ― or tug at their heartstrings ― the most? 

This music is always the bookmark in so many people’s lives.  But they’re also moved by the personal stories of each of these guys. It’s a music doc, but I feel it's more than that. It’s about family and friendships.

How did this particular Savannah screening come about? It’s interesting to me that it's being held in conjunction with both a live show by the band at a different venue, as well as a private “masterclass” from some of the musicians. Is this an unusual booking for the film, or have you done shows like this in the past which were held in tandem with a live appearance by the group? 

Nothing is better than seeing these guys perform live and then watching the movie. There is a whole different appreciation of the guys when you see them play. They don’t hold back. And you don’t have to be a musician for the masterclass. I’m not a musician! But I appreciate what they are saying and giving to the audience. I love the Q&As with the guys.

What would you say to anyone who’s reading this piece in advance of the event to best posit to them why they might really appreciate attending and seeing this film -- even if the main participants in the documentary hold no immediate name recognition for them? 

They might not know their names, but I promise you have heard their music for the last 50 years ― and even today, you still hear them on the radio. Not only did they record, produce, and write some of the hits, they were huge influences on the music that followed them. 

Where would you prefer people procure a copy of this film for themselves (meaning which outlet or avenue will garner you and the other backers of the film the biggest cut of the sales price), so I can direct readers that way? 

If they were to buy a DVD or Blu-ray, I’d really appreciate it if they visited our website at www.ImmediateFamilyFilm.com. If they use the code word “Savannah” they’ll get a discount. The DVD includes an hour-long roundtable discussion with the guys from the film. The Blu-ray contains that as well, plus two additional hours of other outtakes from all sorts of artists and the guys themselves. I was only allowed three hours and had much more than that to share. So, over time, I’ll be adding those extra clips to the website.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes! Please follow us on our Facebook page and on Instagram @immediatefamilyfilm. And, if you haven’t seen The Wrecking Crew, you can find that on Hulu and various other platforms.


 Thomas Claxton devoted himself to a full-time career as a performing musician and made a name for himself in the Greater Savannah area as a gifted interpreter of classic rock, hard rock, pop and soul songs. His calling card is a powerful, expressive voice with a theatrical flair. Eventually he began recording and releasing independent albums of his own original material, and traveling up and down the East Coast and out to California, supporting himself by playing a mixture of covers and originals everywhere from small bars and restaurants to Hard Rock Cafés. Before long his diligence paid off and he began receiving endorsements from musical gear companies and invitations to sing and play at industry functions. He now divides his time between playing gigs (either solo or with two different backing bands) and promoting special concert events in and around his hometown.

Wicked Messenger: You have spent many years making a name for yourself in this area as a singing guitarist who’s known as a reliable and noteworthy interpreter of other songwriters’ material, as well as of your own original compositions. However, over the past couple of years, rather than simply playing standard-issue gigs at bars, restaurants or venues in this area, you have dedicated yourself to ― at least in the greater Savannah market – putting a significant amount of time, energy and money into creating and putting on high-profile, ticketed, live concert events in the Greater Savannah area. Most, but not all of which, feature or at least include you as an onstage performer. Can you speak a little bit about when and why you made that shift in your career plan, as well as what sort of risks you have incurred in doing so, and what sort of benefits you have seen from that new approach?

Thomas Claxton: Savannah, while an extremely important one, was one of a handful of parts to my overall career, especially in recent years. Much of my career reaches far outside of the hometown scene. Starting in 2008, I embraced a traveling schedule that included networking with industry leaders and prominent artists, and that has gradually built to where it’s taken me to date. A few years ago, when I came up with the idea of the “Me, Myself, & Us” concert series, there were several reasons. I wanted something fresh and different in my hometown career. I wanted to share a part of what I do outside of Savannah with my hometown crowd. And, I wanted to direct my own path, and not be reliant on whether or not someone else booked me. I’ve never had issues getting standard gigs (which I’m beyond grateful for), but I also know when I need change in my life. The concert series began as a way to do local, ticketed shows based on my original music and rarely-played covers, which was a complete 180-degree turn from the non-ticketed, cover-based gigs that local listeners knew me for. Every so often at those ticketed shows, I would bring in a special guest performer from other areas that local music fans might not normally have the chance to see in an intimate setting.

Here's a clip of Thomas Claxton performing David Bowie’s “Loving the Alien,” alongside Bowie’s longtime bassist Carmine Rojas, at an earlier installment of his concert series.

I’ve always had a deep appreciation for “behind-the-scenes” tales of the music industry, because so much of what goes on which ultimately leads to what hits the consumer’s ears, the public is unaware of. There are countless, fascinating stories of that sort that deserve sharing with as many music fans as possible, and I’ve personally found that nothing beats the stories told by the session and stage musicians that often co-wrote the songs or toured with the famous artists. In most cases, these underappreciated performers are just as responsible for the music as the celebrities whose names we all know. Many of my special guests are artists that I’ve either performed or recorded with myself, so in many cases, it’s been as easy as calling a friend to come to our Coastal Empire and be a part of this series.

As far as the risks go, I’d say any time you step out of a comfort zone, there’s a level of risk involved. In this particular situation, it’s always a risk to put it all on the line. Especially financially. But there’s a degree of excitement in not knowing how something will go, while still having faith and trusting the process, the path and those who believe in you.

Could a situation fail? Absolutely. But it can also succeed, and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. I didn’t get where I am because I always “won.” Failures happen, but everything I’ve failed at taught me lessons and prepared me for this. I’m sure I’ll stumble and fall again and may not like it. But I’ll appreciate it when I do.

I know you were already on friendly terms with a few of the people involved in the Immediate Family band. How did the idea come about to bring that group of iconic, legendary rock, pop, blues, soul, jazz and folk players to Savannah for a special live show?

I met the Immediate Family in November of 2021 at a special event in Hartford, Connecticut promoted and produced by my great friend (and CPA), Alan Friedman. Alan is one of those amazing human beings that brings nothing but positive energy to every part of your life that he’s involved in. I was well aware of who the members of the band were. Hell, a few of these guys were the world-renowned session band known as “The Section,” which were literally the architects of some of the most legendary songs ever written. Alan brought me in to perform for his band during that weekend event, and when I met some of the Immediate Family members, they were absolutely amazing to me ― very kind and complimentary following the set from the band I performed with.

I remember sitting there before the show chatting with legendary drummer, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, and then here comes Leland Sklar. Mind blown. Leland and I kept in touch. Same with my friend Steve Postell, who was a special guest of the series back in December of 2023. The sincerity of these guys, as well as Russ Kunkel and Danny Kortchmar, and knowing the music they were involved in collectively, is humbling. I’m grateful and privileged to be able to host these guys and can’t wait for them to experience Savannah. It’s also equally exciting to welcome Elliot Easton, founding member and guitarist of the Cars on this night as he joins the band for their set!

Speak a bit about why you wanted to pair this live show with a screening of the recent documentary made about the band members’ legacies, and how you came to include the film’s director as a special guest at that screening.

I’m all about giving people a unique experience. Many concerts, after you suffer the ridiculous online ticket fees, are rather simple from a consumer’s point of view: You pay. You attend. They perform. They leave. You leave. Not to say they aren’t enjoyable; I’ve had a blast at many of those. But at my concert series events, I want to give the audience the opportunity to be in a closer setting with these performers. I host Q&A sessions from the stage and truly aim to mix education with entertainment. I want people to leave these shows feeling like they learned something about this music that they may not have realized prior to attending. And who would know better than the ones who often co-wrote the songs?

As far as the Immediate Family goes, these particular guys have been so impactful in the history of modern music, that their stories warranted an actual documentary! The film’s director, Denny Tedesco, was already well-known. His previous documentary on the famous session band “The Wrecking Crew,” was beyond well-received, and I want people to watch this one and experience what I did when I attended a 2022 screening of it in New York City. I also wanted Denny to be a part of this event, because besides the stars of the film themselves, no one could tell this story better. Their management put Denny and I in touch and the deal was done. I feel like I’ve known him forever and it’s a true honor for him to be on hand.

What sort of role will you be playing in the various aspects of this two-day, three-event engagement?

I’m the producer and promoter of the series. Since performing is always my passion, I’m usually a performer at the shows as well, in some manner. For the April 25 and 26 events, I’ll be taking on the backstage insanity that is a well-produced show and screening, as well as opening the Thursday night concert with an acoustic set of my own songs, plus a few interpretations of some classics for good measure.

Claxton's interpretation of a beloved '80s hit, shot in a sorely-missed Savannah music venue.

What would you say to someone who is a fan of pop, rock, soul and folk music from the 1970s onward, yet who does not recognize the names of any of the musicians involved in this group? Why should they be interested in attending this show?

There aren’t enough words to describe the importance of these artists. When it comes to the records (they played key roles in creating), I would argue they form the musical timelines of many of our lives. No matter what age you are, if you’ve ever driven down the highway and sang along to the songs of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, and too many more to list here, then you’ve enjoyed the genius of this band. As Billy Bob Thorton stresses in the documentary: In the ‘70s, it was rare to pick up an album and not see these guys’ names in the liner notes. If you want to experience a piece of musical history, then come and enjoy this band.

How would you describe the benefits to serious or aspiring musicians, singers, songwriters or recording engineers and producers, of the Masterclass that these musicians will be taking part in?

I can’t stress enough to aspiring performers how important it is to never stop learning. And who better to learn from than these guys? When it comes to hearing their stories, their advice, the ways they approach their instruments, and what led to all of this, these musicians are literally the “Jedi” of their craft. The masterclass following the documentary screening will feature: Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, and Steve Postell on guitar. I’ve never learned more than when performers who have already navigated certain paths, took the time to share with me what they themselves had learned along their journeys ― especially these guys!

Explain a bit about how and why the Gretsch family (famed for owning and running the highly-respected drum and guitar-making company which bears their family’s name) is involved in your various concert productions. What do you get out of that involvement, and what do they?

The “Me, Myself, & Us Concert Series” is partnered with the Gretsch School of Music at the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University. When I first spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Fred and Dinah Gretsch concerning their involvement in the series, I was excited right out of the gate. Mrs. Dinah expressed the potential she saw in my series and wanted to help bring more eyes to it and to also have its special guests speak to the students at the University while they’re visiting our beautiful city to perform. My guest artists go to the campus and treat the students to an insiders’ perspective on the music industry. It’s truly a unique experience for the students. I can confidently say that nothing like it was offered when I was still in school.

I’ve always been passionate about music education as I feel it’s the perfect outlet for society’s youth. Music is a language that everyone seems to understand. When I was coming up, I was blessed to have an amazing teacher (Dr. Lauren Ringwall), but the school system itself didn’t put a lot into music education, and I was even discouraged by some for wanting to pursue it as a full-time career. I was always looking for some sort of way to make a difference in that, but could not do so until now. The path that Mr. and Mrs. Gretsch are selflessly forging to help these students navigate this business is inspiring and I’m honored to be a part of it. Through my series and beyond, I plan to contribute in any way possible. It’s wonderful to be a part of their vision and to promote music education and to impact the lives of our future. I’m beyond grateful and honored to have their trust and confidence.

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I just want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported my vision for this series, and I hope everyone can enjoy it for the unique experience that it truly is. For those who have attended past shows, I can’t thank you enough. For those yet to, I look forward to the opportunity to see you at a future event. Thank you to the local businesses and the ones outside of our area who have supported this in multiple ways. The best is yet to come, I can promise you that.