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Rock Hall of Famer Dave Mason schedules Maine show

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Bringing with him a musical legacy stretching back to the mid '60s, Dave Mason says he's looking forward to returning to Maine. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and founding member of Traffic will bring his trio to Portland for a show at Asylum on Saturday, March 30.  

'It's been a while since we've been up that way,' Mason told me in a phone interview last week. 'Maine is a beautiful state.'   

For the last 12 months, Mason has been performing in a musically stripped-down setting with Jonathan McEuen (son of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's John McEuen) on acoustic guitar and percussion from Mason's long-time drummer, Alvino Bennett (Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Slash, Earth, Wind & Fire).  

'With the three of us it's a little more intimate, and it's been going over great,' Mason said. 'The show is good every night because that's the way we want to make it.' A quick glance at Mason's Facebook page suggests that his fans agree, with comments such as 'Loved the Nashville show fabulous!', 'Dave's still got it going on,' 'Special night, excellent!' among the hundreds of messages left by happy concert-goers.

Much of the set list for Mason's show reflects his storied rock history. As a teenager, Mason was a road manager for The Spencer Davis Group, which featured Steve Winwood (then 17 years old) on vocals and organ. After contributing backing vocals to the group's two biggest U.S. hits, 'Gimme Some Lovin'' and 'I'm a Man', Mason joined Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood in forming one of rock's most celebrated bands, Traffic.   

Traffic spent their first six months living together and writing songs in a rustic country cottage (without electricity or plumbing) in Berkshire, west of London. What the setting lacked in modern convenience was made up for in the form of inspiration and invaluable 'getting to know you' time, which fostered a batch of wondrous songs for Traffic's first album, 'Mr. Fantasy.'   

The Mason-penned 'Hole in my Shoe,' one of the era's tastiest slices of psychedelic whimsy, became Traffic's second single and a #2 British hit. The group discovered that they had suddenly become pop stars with sold out shows, radio and TV appearances, hordes of screaming girls and loads of famous friends.   

Mason admits that he has never been a collector of his own memorabilia, but he wishes he had kept one piece. 'The only thing I wish I had held onto was a telegram from John, Paul, George and Ringo that they sent me when Hole In My Shoe was a hit,'' he remembers. Mason befriended The Beatles while attending sessions for the band's 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' 'I knew Paul and got to know the others George especially.'  

The frenzy surrounding Traffic's sudden charge to the Top of the Pops caused Mason to retreat. 'Traffic was too much, too soon,' Mason told me, recalling feelings from that time. 'I'm a country boy at heart. I couldn't deal with the sudden success. I was only 18 and I left after the first album. That's when I met Jimi Hendrix.'  

Fast friends, Hendrix invited Mason to add the distinctive 12-string acoustic guitar to his searing version of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower.' 'I also sang on Crosstown Traffic' and did some other sessions with him at around the time I produced an album called Music in a Doll's House' for the group Family,' Mason said.  

At this point, Mason also rejoined Traffic. 'I had five songs and Traffic was doing a second album, so we recorded it,' he told me. One of Mason's songs, 'Feelin' Alright,' has become a staple of classic hits radio, best known in the version by Joe Cocker. 'That song is constantly in stuff movies, TV, commercials. They usually use Cocker's version and many people aren't really aware that I wrote it.' 

Mason reunited with Winwood and Capaldi when Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. 'Rock and Roll is not an age, it's an attitude,' Mason said during his acceptance speech.

After leaving Traffic for a second time, Mason contributed to The Rolling Stones' 'Beggars Banquet' album and found time to tour with the rock and soul-infused Delaney & Bonnie and Friends during their opening shows for Blind Faith's 1969 American tour. The traveling caravan later added a couple of other friends looking for a musical diversion: Eric Clapton and George Harrison. 

That association led to Mason's participation in sessions for Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' in 1970, where he joined Harrison and Clapton on guitar for some of the jams that made up the set's third album.  

Mason was also part of the earliest recording sessions for the band that became Derek and the Dominos. He added guitar to the group's first single, 'Tell the Truth/Roll it Over,' and joined the band for their inaugural concerts at London's Lyceum on June 14, 1970. Immediately following these shows, Mason hit the road to promote his first solo album, 'Alone Together,' featuring the hit 'Only You Know and I Know.' 

Eleven more studio albums followed, along with constant touring and guest appearances on albums by friends Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Phoebe Snow, Crosby & Nash, Ron Wood and former Traffic-mates Winwood and Capaldi.  

Mason's biggest U.S. hit, 'We Just Disagree,' from the album 'Let it Flow,' hit #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977. 

Mason has played thousands of shows through the years and says he still loves connecting with an audience. 'We've been doing this professionally for so long it's what we do,' he told me. Mason says that the set-list for his current tour contains songs from throughout his career. 'There's some Traffic stuff in there. There's some material from my solo albums and some new songs in there too.'

Most recently, Mason has been in the studio with his guitarist. 'Jonathan is extremely talented a great guitar player,' he said enthusiastically. 'I'm recording some music with him at the moment. He's taken a number of my songs and is doing a country album and I'm producing it.'     

When not performing, Mason spends his free time assisting returning veterans in making an easier transition back to civilian life. His charity is called Work Vessels for Veterans. 'Our whole mission is, we help people start their own businesses,' Mason explained. 'Vets are very highly trained, motivated people. The people that I know who employ them let us know that the veterans are usually the ones who move up and get promoted faster.

'Adam Burke is somebody we started three years ago. He started Veterans Farm down in Jacksonville, Florida. We bought the land and the tools for him and he hires other vets. He was just awarded the nation's second highest civilian honor at the White House, The Presidential Citizen's Medal. It's pretty cool and we're very proud of it.' 

Mason says that Work Vessels For Veterans is an all-volunteer charity. 'We're a 5013c with no administrative overhead,' he told me. 'We also supply laptop computers to vets. For anybody out there who has a business and is looking to refurbish or get rid of your laptops, we'll gladly take them. People can find out more about what we do at www.WVFV.net .'

Dave Mason will appear with his trio at Asylum, 121 Center St. in Portland on Saturday, March 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at www.PortlandAsylum.com. Info: 772-8274. This show is 18+.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard each morning on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.3,104.7 and 107.7.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 18:17

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