WADE MATTHEWS STORIES
Dear Folks, Our buddy Wade has passed on, but the funny and heartfelt stories about him are with us. So “The Wade-Blog” begins. (It’s not really a blog; I’m just collecting stories and reminiscences here at email@example.com. Please forward your stuff.
I’ll send all the stories to you in a few days after they slow down. I might not have heard ‘em accurately, so anybody who was there (I’ll credit the sources), please chime in. This, guaranteed, will be a hoot. Respondents, don't be upset if I’ve trimmed your comments a bit for the sake of space and getting us all teary-eyed again. Of course, I’ll offer the final version to his family for the funeral or the Wade Wake. I’m putting the longest reminisences at the end.
I havent' yet heard from Tim Eyermann, Jimmy Thackery or Bruce Harrison. Fellas, cough it up. Ready? Read on.
Wade Gets Stamp of Approval. (Phil McCusker)
In Tim Eyermann's band, we were in Coconut Grove in Florida. The head of jazz guitar at U. of Miami came out to hear us. After listening to a set he said, “You'd better never lose that bass player. He's got perfect time and he's the funkiest human being I've ever heard.”
Wade the Communicator. (Keith Grimes)
It was amazing that he could just take an audience, you know? Just take them wherever he wanted, and people loved it. Where there had been just polite applause for the esemble, he got tumultuous applause. The room would catch fire. He was a true communicator. Like Richard Harrington pointed out in his Washington Post article (April 9, 2004, “Weekend” ), there were two Wades: the Jaco-like Wade when hewas young when he played everything because he was so technically gifted, and then later Wade, when his playing was melodic, more groove oriented, with a sense of note placement and silence and all that.
I got to work with both Wades, in Rent’s Due (in the ‘70s), and then in more recent times with the Mary Shaver Band. I think some our best performances were with Wade. He played so melodically that sometimes I’d just stop playing chords and instead play counterpoint lines. He was never stuck for an idea: he had a 360 degree knowledge of music.
Wade the Gentleman. (Keith Grimes)
We were on a reheasal break at Bill Holland’s place in Adams Morgan. Wade and Larry Strothers were in the dining room and me and Bill’s wife Marianne were sitting in the front living room. Larry was teasing Wade about unfocused or something he’d done or hadn’t done, and Wade said, “Hey, then why am I here?” the implication being he’d made the rehearsal. Larry says, “You’re here to get high.” Wade takes offense. “Hey I could be home, getting a (sex act) AND getting high!” Then he gets that uh-oh caught-schoolboy look. He walks over to the doorway and says, “Sorry, Marianne.”
Wade’s “New Look." (John Jennings)
In the early ‘90s, Wade and his then-wife were living in the same lower Connecticut Avenue (D.C.) apartment building as me and my then-wife. Bubba (Wade Jr.) was about one year old. Well, Wade came home one day with his head shaved, and he had a tattoo of a snake on his skull and he was wearing an earring. I saw him walking with Bubba in a stroller, wearing sunglasses. I said to myself, “You know, if somebody sees him who doesn’t know him, the title on the snapshot is ‘Baby For Sale.’”
There’s always been good players around here, but there haven’t been too many titantic players. He was one of the few.
Why Wade Finally got Contact Lenses. (Andris Plavnieks)
Wade was an inspiration to me. He worked hard, and played hard. Everything he did, he did with conviction. I had the good fortune of having played with Wade in countless jam sessions, and in a band together called Brass Monkey. With his bass, in fact, with his whole body and soul, Wade exuded so much energy that my guitar would almost play itself! I have never played with or even heard such talent elsewhere!
I knew there was something special in this man when on any given night that we played in even the dumpiest bars, during his bass solo, Wade’s glasses would FLY across the stage every time, even if the place was empty! This is the kind of playing -- and living -- that Wade has inspired me to strive for. I may never achieve it, but I will never forget it!
Wade ... with Gloves On. (Timm Biery)
There are so many moments ... I remember laughing until I cried and working as hard as I could to keep up musically with Wade -- often these occurred in the same tune!
The first time I played with Wade was sometime in '87, I think. It was on a Deanna Bogart gig outside at Connecticut and L streets in DC. I'd heard about him for years, and was excited and apprehensive at the same time to play with him. It was absolutely freezing cold (December, I believe). We said our hellos (he was a bit late) and began to play. The lock was immediate, big smiles between the both of us. It wasn't until the second set that I realized he had been playing the with gloves on the entire gig!! And no holes for the tips of his fingers either!!! Amazing ...
I'll remember his humor -- he had the ability to liven up a long tour with a million jokes, I'll remember his ability to play at times when a mortal wouldn't have been able to stand (you know what I mean!) and I'll remember his kindness toward me in so many ways -- he was always quick to ask if his help was needed in times of crises
Wade was instrumental in my coming on Nils' band back in '96, and I was so glad to be able to thank him for that (and so many other things) at the Nils show last year and again when I spoke to him last, just before his birthday. He threw me session work at every opportunity, and he taught me that music was to be a joyous thing.
He also introduced me to his friend Barry Kukowski, who ended up working with me in my studio until I left DC. Barry and Wade played music together in their teens. When Barry was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December, he told me he and Wade joked about starting a new band and getting out on the road as quickly as they could... Barry died this past Saturday. I find it comforting that they're together, probably trying to find a guitarist even as we speak.
Wade and The Bonnet. (Tom Principato)
I'll never forget a pretty rowdy road trip with the Assassins that ended up early one morning at Aunt Sally's Pancake House in Charlottesville, Va. Aunt Sally's sold old-fashioned style "Bonnets" for women like the kind you might see a character wearing in the 'Lil Abner comic strip. Of course Wade had to have one! But it wasn't until the next night at the gig when everyone had forgotten all about the bonnet that Wade found a way to sneak it on stage and wear it for one of the last songs of the evening. I will never forget that hilarious image of Wade tearing the bass up with that bonnet on. Of course by the time everyone else realized what was going on, Wade was well into an unaccompanied bass solo---the rest of us were laughing so much it was impossible to play along with him.
In over 43 years of playing music there has not been anyone that I have enjoyed playing music with more than Wade Matthews. A most affable guy, never an unkind word for anyone, incredibly creative, and the consummate musician and band member. Wade was a real "team player"-- his enthusiasm was infectious. Wade knew how to have fun making music. And very few players even approached his remarkable skill and facility on the bass. Wade was fun to be around, too; he was always good for a twinkle. Wade, buddy -- I'm really gonna miss you. Thank you for the blessings of your gifts.
Young Wade and Slow Blues. (Pete Kennedy)
Wade, man. He was like a comet that brushed a little too close to the Earth. If he had been a teetotalling temperance preacher, he still would have earned his nickname "the Wild Man," simply because he lived life with the energy knob on "11."
I first met him in Bill Holland's basement, back when Bill and Marianne lived over by the Zoo. Wade was, I think, still in his teens, and Rent's Due was his first gig as a pro rock bass player. He was known [in his youth] as a hot bebop trombone prodigy. He was so full of energy and creativity that he wanted to play every note, all at once, and he came damn close! It was amazing to watch him grow into the solid rock bass player that we all knew, the guy who could nail one note with such a fat sound and feel that every body else, especially the drummer, could just breathe easy.
As a kid, he hated to play slow. He loved bebop, and he couldn't see why the bass player should have to be stuck with a few quarter notes when there were all those lovely sixteenths out there. Those of you who know him from his tasty work with Jimmy Thackery may be surprised to know that, initially, he was not a fan of the blues. Not enough notes!
One night at the Psychedelly, Bill Holland was singing a Joe Williams tune, and Wade had his "intense" face going on. He was smiling beatifically, like Ravi Shankar, but in a scrunched-up rocking mode. In "the Zone." To the audience, he was the personification of "into it." He moved over next to me, dutifully playing his sl-o-o-o-w bass line, and without ever once cracking his mask of transcendent intensity, he shouted to me "I hate this shit!." Bill was focused on the lyrics, or else he would have fallen down laughing like Scott Taylor and I did.
Wade lived his life, every minute of it, with humor, creativity, and love. Now that he's gone, there's no one to call me "Pete-o", and come to think of it, that's probably a good thing. But I sure will miss him. The best way to memorialize Wade? Let's all try to play on his level. As Miles once said about Gil Evans, "Dead? No way, man. he's always right here." So let's try to play the way we did when Wade was on the session--at the top of our chops. That's his legacy, and it's a good one. So long, Wade-o.
Wade Learns To Like Slow. (Bill Holland)
After Rent’s Due in the ‘70s, Wade and I occasionally got to work together when I started playing out again in the ‘90s. We’d do a change-of-pace minor blues ballady thing written by guitarist Grant Green called “Idle Moments.” This episode took place at Brubaker’s in Bethesda. As the tune progressed, everybody knows it’s going to be a beautiful version. I think Bruce Swaim was playing tenor. Wade was into it, massaging his electric upright Klevinger to the point where if it had been alive, it would have either melted in his arms -- or called the police. Anyway, finally the tune ends, and the audience loved it. Wade turns to us, all beatific, and says, “that...was...FINE.............like...like... HER-O-WINE!” It was a great compliment, but scary too, because there was no doubt he knew EXACTLY what he was saying.
Rico and Wade-o. (Michael “Rico” Petrucelli)
I met Wade probably almost 30 years ago when he was a young dude playing bass in a band called "Fancy Colors". His chops, even then, were, shall we say, blistering. I watched with some amusement over the years as he gradually morphed from packing every bar with notes to an excellent (what else?) supportive rhythm section leader. We remained friends over all these years, subbing for each other, trading gigs back and forth over the phone, right up to this year. Wade was a really generous, deferential (considering his prodigious talent), guy.
Our phone conversations always began the same way:
"Hey, Wade-o; what's up?"
If I called him and said, "Hey man, can I borrow your Klevinger? I got a session IN AN HOUR," he'd say, "Absolutely, dude, come on by."
I don't have any of those great gig stories, obviously; we're both bass players. But I'll always remember Wade as a ferociously talented guy who'd give you his shirt, his axe, anything you needed, if you asked him. You just don't run into that many people like that in life. The boy cast a huge shadow in all our lives.
Wade Be Slick. (Bill Holland)
In the ‘90s, Kramer Books & Afterwards at Conn. Ave. and L Sts. NW used to have a crummy upright piano in its loft section and invite duos to play evenings for like $200. Me and Wade did more than a few. We’d do Ray Charles, Randy Newman, Professor Longhair. I remember that at Wade’s suggestion, we played “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” as a samba (with an emotive Brazil ‘66 vocal and of course an outrageous bass solo). But I digress.
So one night, at the end of a set, I announced we were taking our break, and jokingly suggested everybody buy one of the shop’s “lovely, really delicious $12.95 desserts.” Well, the manager didn’t see any humor in my exaggeration, went berserk and fired us on the spot. Well, I got hot under the collar. but Wade cooled me out. I can see he’s thinking. Then he leans over, grinning. “They told you they’ve got the check already to go out in the mail, right ?” he says. I say, “Yeah, so...??” He says, “Well, the sign on the front door says this joint opens at 10 am. If you get down here at 10 am., I bet you can go to the bookkeeper’s office, get the check in person and cash it before that asshole even wakes up.”
I was at the door at 10 am, got the check from the bookkeeper and sure enough cashed it. No fool, that boy.
Wade the Teacher. (Ronnie Newmyer)
Wade gave me bass lessons when I was 20 and he was 19 -- despite the fact that then and now, he blew my doors off, he was always extremely encouraging -- never lorded over me that he was so much more advanced.
As I have told a few friends, if I could play one-half as good as Wade on his worst day, I'd be one insufferable bastard. He was always gracious. He also told me the best Christmas joke I ever heard -- which I have continued to tell every year to great response. Look me up this December & I'll spout it again.
At the Wade Aid benefit two years ago, I'll never forget how he limped in (arriving late from another gig on his own benefit night!) and absolutely played the hell out of some standard blues tune -- that was Wade. I noted that night (in my mumbling on-the-microphone way, so I'll repeat it here) that I have played in a few groups where Wade had the gig later on. On many occasions I heard him play songs I had played the same way hundreds of times and had exhausted everything I could think of. Wade would immediately hear & execute things on the same songs that I couldn’t fathom -- leaving me to wonder "how the hell did he think of that?!" What an imagination, what a soul.
Wade the Society Orchestra Player #1. (Gantt Kushner)
Mine are just small little stories: On a Gene Donati Orchestras club-date, the leader asked Wade if he knew the tune he was about to call. Wade said “No, but I’m not afraid!” Wade in a nut shell ... .
On another Gene Donati gig, just before Christmas, Wade hollers, “White Christmas! Reggae style! It’ll work! One, two, three, four ...”
When Billy Fotis called me up to see if I’d play some gigs with him, I asked who was on the band. I took the gig because Wade was playing bass. We did the Tuesday night blues jam at Bangkok Blues for about a year. I picked Wade up and drove him to and from the club most weeks. I’m sure gonna miss him.
Wade the Society Orchestra Player #2. (John Straus)
Even though I never was on any of the hip gigs with Wade, just Gene Donati elevator music club dates for people who take the stairs, I did get to be part of the rhythm section with him and benefit from his soulful bass playing. My favorite line of Wade's --probably one he said to many people was this: "I've got two gears on this bass -- kill and sshh."
Wade and the Police #1. (Public Domain)
Wade is in New Orleans, I think with the Lazy Boys. It’s late at night and he goes to an outside ATM to get some cash. He is robbed at gunpoint. The hoods take all his money and his clothes. Wade is nude or near-nude. A cop car pulls up, shines a light on him, and arrests HIM for indecent exposure. He spends the night in jail.
Wade and the Police #2. (Public Domain)
Wade is driving home from Ocean City with Tommy Lepson. Late ’90s. Tommy is in his souped up, nasty-ass old van. Both look --well let’s be honest here -- like Cheech and Chong. (Remember Tommy’s tie-dye tee shirts?) A cop spies them and flags them down. Classic example of profiling. Now the sequence of what happens next could be wrong. I think the cop smells dope. Wade had been spliffin’. Cop says, “So you play bass?” Wade answers, “Yes, officer.” “What kind of bass you play?” Wade replies, “Well, right now, I’m playing the blues.” Cop did not think that was funny. Patdown, search, find, and the lads end up in jail.
Wade and his errant bass. (Bill Holland)
Rent’s Due had a gig at a club in Harrisburg, Va. back in ’78. Bonnie Raitt was playing at James Madison and was planning to jam with us after her concert, which probably ended up 11 PM. So...starting time passes and no Wade. Ten o’clock, no Wade. He rolls in his big white Chevy about 10:40. Has that sheepish expression. The bass case he’s holding doesn’t look so good. “What happened?” I ask. “Well, first, I had a flat,” he says. So I get the jack out of the trunk and I put my bass case on the car roof. I fix the flat, put the jack back, slam the trunk and drive off. “About two miles down the road, I realize my bass case is on the roof. I pull over, and lo and behold, no bass! So I have to double back. I luckily see the bass in its case on the side of the road. I do a U turn and stop. I overshoot it, and have to back up. Unfortunately,” he says, with that ineffable Wade lopsided grin, “I ran over the bass case.” The bass was okay. Once we got on-stage, he played his ass off.
Wade the Poker Player. (Steve Larrance)
Bill Potts, the great Grammy-winning jazz arranger (“Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess”) and piano player, used to teach in the jazz studies program at Montgomery County Community college. Wade was initially a student and then a newbie instructor. Potts retired, went to Florida, but came back on a visit. He ran into Larrance at MCC. “Anybody else around?” Potts asked. Steve said, “Well, Wade’s down the hall.” Potts says, “great,” and walks in to Wade’s office, they do the big hug and greet. “You remember that poker game back when?” Potts asks. Wade reluctantly says, “Yes. The all-night one.” Potts turns to Lawrence and says: “The next morning, I walked into class -- Wade was with me-- and I asked my students how they liked my shoes.” The class liked them. “Well, last night,” says Potts, “they belonged to HIM.”
Wade and the Police #3. (Steve Larrance)
Wade is on the GW Parkway, posted speed, 50 mph, after a gig. He’s doing about 65. Cop stops him. Asks him if he’s been drinking. Wade says, “I’m a musician, been on a gig, maybe a few.” Cop gets him out of the car, has him recite the alphabet. Wade goes, “ABCDEFG etc., real fast. Cop is impressed. “Well, in the future, I think you’d best go slower.” Wade begins to recite reeal slow: “A..............B............C............D. Cop is not amused.
Addendum to "Police #3: (Jim Zidar)
In the parkway incident, Wade was driving Tim Eyermann's van, full of all the band's equipment, solo. The cop, who had been about to let Wade proceed, was SO unamused by his slow alphabet recitation that he made Wade unload the entire vanload on the narrow, muddy shoulder so the cop could "search for contraband." Finding none, he drove off, leaving Wade to reload the van by himself, in the dark.
Wade Feels Better. (Phil McCusker)
We’re playing in Pennsylvania with Eyermann (Tim Eyermann & The East Coast Offering). Well, the money’s short, so we’re all in one motel room. We take the mattresses off the beds, and some of us are on the box springs with sleeping bags. Not comfortable. Everybody finally dozes off, but I wake up in the middle of the night and I can kinda see Wade is up and pacing. Well, he rolls a joint and take a few puffs, okay? Then in a few minutes, he says to no one in particular, “Okay. That’s better!”
Wade the Teacher #2. (James Zidar)
I went to see Wade play a day or two after his dad had died. This was maybe 20 years ago (apologies to Lee, Joel and Sue, but I don't remember exactly when). We were standing in the parking lot, and I didn't know what to say, as Wade was obviously bummed but (at that time) was a somewhat taciturn man, a Stoic not given to verbal expression of feelings. "I'm sorry to hear about your dad," I said, and he nodded and looked away. For some reason I wanted to say more. "My dad is getting on in years," I began tentatively, "and I sure don't look forward to losing him. When he goes I'll probably start thinking about how maybe I could have been a better son, or how I wish I hadn't fought with him so much, or whether I should have said or done something that might have made a difference."
Wade looked up, suddenly interested. "Yeah man," he said, nodding his head, "that's exactly what I been thinkin'." After a little more awkward silence I turned to go, but felt a restraining hand on my shoulder. Wade turned me to face him, seized both my shoulders, looked intently into my eyes -- the only time he did so before or since -- and said, with a fervor I'd never heard from him, "Hang out with your dad, man. Hang out with him a lot."
In the 20 years since, I've thought of that phrase, not just every so often, but no less than several times a week, often more, as recently as a few hours ago. Every time I think of visiting or calling my dad -- now 87 -- but hesitate to, because I'm just too busy or tired, have a long work day tomorrow, whatever; or I'm sitting in my parents' kitchen listening to my dad tell stories I've heard scores of times before, about his service in WW II, or his younger days working in the iron and coal mines of Minnesota; I hear that heartfelt admonition of Wade's, always in his voice. I imagine his face looking into mine and his fierce grip on my shoulders. And I say to my dad on the phone, "I'll be right over." Or I perk up at the kitchen table, listening to my father's stories, watching him glow with the thrill of retelling them, listening as intently as if I'd never heard them before. Wade taught me that life is short, and that time spent with loved ones is not to be wasted. He changed, with one phrase uttered in a parking lot, my relationship with my family; gave me a still-cherished lesson, in a few brief seconds, in Growing Up. Remarkable, isn't it, how one powerful man's words can stay with you for the rest of your life.
Soon after we became friends, I was astonished to find out that Wade was my age, older only by a few months. So much of the time I spent with him turned out to be the same sort of instruction, usually gleaned from someone far older and wiser, in Being a Man.
Wade and the Balancing Act. (Chuck Sullivan)
I’m not sure exactly how this blog works, but here’s a copy of a letter I sent to Wade last year when he was in the hospital. Wade called me at 11:00 PM the night he received it and told me how much it meant to him. He said it was going on the wall beside his bed as inspiration. I was really happy he cared enough about me to call me and thank me though I’m sure he was in great pain. I was damn lucky to get a few opportunities to play with him. He will be missed for being not only a great bass player but a funny and genuinely caring soul.
I had a great time playing with you at the Nils’s tribute concert. That night will go down as one of the great moments in my musical career and I believe made local music history. At the end of the show when we were all clapping and singing “We All Sung Together,” I was honored to be standing next to you, goofing, and having a hippy-trippy time. It’s not often I feel young again, but that was one of those times. I know you were in a lot of pain that night and yet you had a great attitude. You joked around and hoped for the best. I don’t know what else you can do.
Another great time I had with you was when I subbed with Tommy Lepson at
Secrets in Ocean City. I was fortunate to be able to play three nights in a
row with you and we had a chance to find our groove. Then later that night
you made me laugh so hard I think I choked on my beer. Maybe it was when
you balanced a beer bottle on your head and walked around like there was
nothing weird at all. This is yet another one of your hidden talents.
I’m very thankful that once we finally got to jam a little that you made
me feel like I was good enough for you. Your bass playing has always been
intimidating, strong, appropriate, and just awesome. Somehow you managed
not to let your virtuosity go to your head, and instead have used your
talent to make others feel appreciated. In a world of music egos this is
quite a tribute to you.
Wade the Interview.
On September 23, 1998, area bass player Scott Giambusso sat down with Wade for a long, interesting interview that mentions some jobs he’d taken that not all his friends knew about. Here it is:
In the Washington DC music scene, there is one musician who is known at all levels of the music industry. His Imperial Wildness, Mr. Wade Matthews, is the most sought after bassist in the city. As a player, producer, master of instant arrangements and teller of bad jokes, Wade’s reputation for coming on a gig and making it a musical event is known far and wide. His resume includes countless studio jingles and television work. He’s the musical director for “Rory” on the Disney Channel, along with touring with Clint. He pumped up Bill Holland's Rent’s Due Band for years and as a member of the Assassins, a Washington based blues band, Wade was part of Lee Atwater’s back up group. (And in this business you have to take the good with the bad and ugly.)
Also in the 80’s Wade toured the Philippines and the Mediterranean with the USO with the likes of Katherine Bach (“Dukes of Hazard”), and Laurie Mehafie (Potsie Webber’s girl friend on “Happy Days”), Ruth Buzzy (“Laugh In”) and Cynthia Rhodes of “Dirty Dancing.”
He has been creating fat grooves and ear popping solos all over the world for 27 years. There’s no style that Wade cannot make his own, though by his own admission Wade’s heart leans toward Rock music. His latest musical job has been touring the world with Nils Lofgren. I asked Wade about his new boss.
SG: So Wade, how did you manage to land the gig with Nils?
WM: Well, Ronnie Newmyer, a bass player here in D.C. was scheduled to go over to Europe with Nils, and a couple of weeks before the gig Ronnie’s dad got sick and Ronnie was unable to make the gig. So Nils called a few people in town and several people recommended me, so I went out to his house and he gave me a bunch of tapes. We were using a drummer from England, Andy Newmark, and a guitar player from New York. There was no time for the band to rehearse, so I was actually transcribing bass lines on the plane on the way over. We did the first gig the next day on the way over and it came off great.
SG: I suppose you got along pretty good with Nils.
WM: Yeah he’s a great guy.
SG: We all went to different (Montgomery County) high schools together in the 60’s. Didn’t you know him from a long time ago?
WM: I had met him.. oh gosh twenty years ago, but we never played together. Before I met him I used to go see him at the Wheaton Youth Center and the Alexandria Roller Rink.
SG: The venues have changed a lot. When I saw you perform with Nils at the Bayou last month I was so impressed, because although you were playing rock, what you and Timm Biery (the drummer) were doing on the bandstand was so creative . It was very jazz like but it retained its rock roots.
WM: Well one of the things that I like about playing with Nils is that there are certain songs in the set that are just wide open. It’s just a jam. Whatever we come up with, where ever it goes, from night to night it’s cool with him. There are other things that are very structured and are set number of verses, choruses, that stuff, but there are always three or four songs in the set where we can take it as far out as we want to take it, and he loves it.
SG: In the course of a jam would there a chord progression that you would play on, or just one chord and what ever rhythmic variations that happen to come up?
WM: Generally it starts off on a set chord progression and we start subdividing rhythmically or going into different feels, but we can actually alter the chord structure and take it any where we want to go. Like one of the things Nils will do for example in the song, “Moontears” -- that’s one of the early songs in the set and it has a very long jam in it and it usually begins on just an E - D - C kind of progression. And then we often times take it into E - A - G ..take it all over the place, Nils will start doing b5 riffs and we can get into that stuff. Really it’s wide open and it can be totally different each night and he actually encourages that. It’s almost like a Grateful Dead kinda jam.
SG: I guess that was what was going on! Tim Biery is such an incredible drummer. I’ve seen him play with Danny Gatton and John Previti lots which was also fantastic and leaned more toward the jazz and rockabilly, but I hadn’t had the chance to see you work with him. It’s amazing to see the different chemistry with different players.
WM: The thing that’s beautiful about Tim is he has the chops to pull off anything he wants to play, so no matter how complex he’s subdividing the rhythm you always know where you are. He never leaves you feeling like you’re there with your pants down and you’re not sure where one is gonna come out.
SG: I do know I usually feel very safe playing up to 1950. After that I can get really worried with some of the drummers I work with. (har-har)
WM: The other thing about Tim that’s real good is that there’s a real give and take. He’ll get real busy for a section and then he’ll go back to a simpler riff to give me room to go out and it’s kind of like when he’s going out I’m anchoring it and when I’m going out he’s anchoring it. And sometimes we don’t know how Nils figures out where the heck he is with the stuff we’re doing behind him!
SG: I’ve enjoying watching you go places musically for years and I really feel this band is one of the greatest highlights of your career. I remember though that you started on trombone. As a matter of fact I went to see you in Jr. high school dances playing in the Mirels, a great soul band of the day.
WM: Actually I started playing trombone in 3rd grade and played it all the way through high school, started playing bass in 10th grade. SG: That’s wild because that’s about the time we met and you were already the best bass player around town! WM: I don’t know about that!
SG: Well you always played what you felt and it was always right!
WM: Well I think as a bass player that’s your job and the attitude of the band comes from the bass player. He’s the guy that has to harness the drummer, and still keep the other guys interested. And actually I never played bass in any HS ensembles, just in the rock and roll band we had that rehearsed after school at night. The first band was Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.
SG: Right, it was all Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones and a little Grand Funk and I remember the singer Barry Kukowski used to shoot a dummy with a starters pistol and break ketchup packets on it for a floor show. Anyway you were still playing trombone while this was going on so you developed great reading chops. Do you miss the horn at all?
WM: No I really don’t. As soon as I started playing bass I felt like I had really found my hold in the music scene.
SG: It sounded like you immediately found your place and never looked back.
WM: It a match and it’s been great. It’s funny though even when I first started playing bass, because of the formal training with the bone, I’d never picked any parts off a record by ear. The first song I learned was Love Her Madly by the Doors. It’s like a four note bass line and it took me most of three days to get it!
SG: Funny stuff.
WM: And most of it was just fighting my own demons. It wasn’t because the part was hard or I couldn’t hear it. I just wouldn’t trust my instincts enough to just let go and find the notes. We picked up a few Crow tunes and started doing the Grand Funk stuff. The Stones stuff was always the hardest to play because the Stones played so bad together. It was really hard to make it feel right.
SG: That’s true because I learned “Honky Tonk Women” and and really didn’t like the bass line at first. It just didn’t feel like anything to me.
WM: Right, and then you go back years later and you realize just how integral a part of the song it is, without it being like a hook, like “My Girl” that everybody’s gonna sing. But if it’s not there it just isn’t gonna feel right. I really do think that a lot of the stuff that they came up with, they came up with because they didn’t know what they were doing. Like in “Satisfaction,” the bass line and the guitar parts don’t go together.
SG: With the bass playing the A and the guitar goes to the G chord
WM: It shouldn’t work when you look at it on paper but it sounds fine. It’s about not being afraid to break the rules, or not knowing what the rules are.
SG: That’s exactly why I dropped out of college. You didn’t get a degree either, right?
WM: No, I went to Towson State for 6 days and dropped out.
SG: What happened in those 6 days?
WM: Well I’d gone on a trombone scholarship and I’d auditioned for the Hank Levy band and they had returning upperclassmen who I guess they gave priority to getting into the band. So I would have had to wait at least another semester maybe a year to get into the band, and I just wasn’t into it, didn’t wanna do it. I had a chance to go out (on the road} with Inspiration, let’s go.
SG: The next time I ran into you was at Montgomery College.
WM: Right, when we left Inspiration, let’s see, I joined in ‘73, and we left in ‘76. Montgomery College was really my first college experience. I only made one semester as a matriculated student, and then the rest of it I was just taking ensembles and playing all the music stuff but none of the academics.
SG: So you have a lot of music credits but...
WM: I have one semester of English.
SG: And now you’re on the staff at Montgomery College
WM: Now I’m teaching. Yeah I’m the electric bass teacher. SG: Kind of Bassist Elect I guess. WM: The revolution has come full circle.
SG: So you perform with the faculty including Chris Vadala (Chuck Mangione’s soloist on “Feels So Good”) and I know that all the kids are blasted by your playing. How many CD’s have you been on?
WM: I have probably between 20 or 30 at home, maybe more, I don’t know.
SG: And what was some of your favorite projects?
WM: Some of the Peter Cater stuff has been really interesting. Peter’s a piano player who’s recently been recording with native American flute and drummers and Tibetan flute players and drummers. And one of the things that we did most recently was a female duo called Naked Waters. It’s kind of a combination of poetry and new-age stuff and rock and roll tunes. There’s just a lot of freedom to create on that. The one that I don’t have that hasn’t come out as of yet is a Tibetan monk who plays flute and chants, and the chants that he gets going almost sounds like rap but it’s all in tibetan. The cuts are like twenty minutes long and there a couple of them that just have an ostinato bass pattern through the whole song, and it is so difficult to play the same thing the same way for twenty minutes.
SG: I don’t know how you do it!
WM: Peter had everything recorded except the bass parts. The drums were all hand drums and there’s a lot of little time loopy things because the cuts go so long. It’s the kind of thing if you were playing live with the guys it would be real easy to feel the ebb and the flow. But after having everything recorded and you being the only guy in the control room listening to this stuff. Well it’s a little different approach to it
SG: You don’t feel the music as much when it’s not live. WM: Well you don’t get the same interaction, but it’s very interesting stuff. I can’t wait for it to come out. SG: When did you record it?
WM: We recorded that in the spring of this year as part of Earth Sea Records. They have a healing series where they combine spirituality and healing, breathing healthy living kind of thing. We also did the soundtrack for the Discovery Channel’s Eco-Challenge Race, where they have a group of people that climb mountains and cross rivers and do all this crazy physical stuff. It was about a 3 hour movie we did a soundtrack for and it has some interesting stuff on it too. SG: That’s wildly different for you, Wade. WM: Well, there was the Jonathan Edwards recording; he sold a shitload of songs
SG: What was his big hit?
WM: “Sunshine Go Away Today” (sung). His ‘60s thing was like “Let’s kick back & lay around the shanty, momma, and get a good buzz on.”
SG: What can you say? Wade and Bubba and the internet (Steve Dorman) Ask Dorman to tell you. ***