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Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show on Dec. 13 Brings Together Musician Friends to Play for MusiCares

Freebo with Chad Watson - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo with Chad Watson – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Freebo, Carnie Wilson and Albert Lee are among the musical stars that headline The Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show to benefit MusiCares at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 13.

The Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show brings together some of the best known names in music and will be held at The Plaza Del Sol Performance Center at Cal State Northridge.


Jim Nelson, the well-known DJ from sponsor station KCSN will emcee the event, which raises money for MusiCares, a charitable giving arm of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.  MusiCares helps connect musicians with health and medical programs.

Carnie Wilson - Photo © Gage Skidmore

Carnie Wilson – Photo © Gage Skidmore

Rock Cellar Magazine is another presenting sponsor. The show is produced by The Get Together Foundation.


Participating musicians include: Debbi Peterson (The Bangles); Albert Lee (Bill Wyman, Emmylou Harris, Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton); Carnie Wilson, Rosemary Butler (Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt); Freebo (Bonnie Raitt); Ken Stacey (Ambrosia, Michael Jackson); John Wicks (The Records); Lois Blaisch (Neil Young, David Foster); Marky Lennon (VENICE – the band); Gary Griffin (Brian Wilson); Rob Bonfiglio (Wilson Phillips); Marc Mann (Jeff Lynne, Concert for George); Kiki Ebsen, The Honeys (Marilyn Wilson); Gary Stockdale (Randy Newman) and MB Gordy (Doobie Brothers); John Pratt (vox); Tom Jacob (vox); Dave Pearlman (pedal steel); Chad Watson (bass & bone); Henry Arias (percussion); Eric Mayron (keys) and John McNeely (vox) among others.

MusiCares® Rock-n-Roll Christmas Show is produced by the Get Together Foundation team: President Kevin Wachs, Michael Stern, Jay Cohen, Lauri Reimer, Gary Griffin (Brian Wilson, Jan & Dean). Organizer and promoter is Irene LoConto.

A similar event held last summer raised more than $20,000.


TICKETS are also available through the Plaza Del Sol box office 818-677-3000

Freebo Chooses the Solo Route and Gets Support from Friends on His Journey

Freebo with Steve Postell - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo with super Steve Postell – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Social media ain’t got nothing on Freebo, as the well-known musician celebrated the release of his new CD at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

The word “engagement” took on new meaning at an audience-interactive show that brought out the best in performers and viewers alike.

“The show was really fun,” said one audience member. “Freebo is a real gentleman, I liked how he came out walking through the audience playing, and then brought each of his friends out one by one.  It made me really feel like I was a part of the show.”

Freebo’s list of friends is rather impressive with bassist extraordinaire Chad Watson, drummer Michael Jochum, veteran keyboardist Van Dyke Parks, guitarist Steve Postell, and vocalists Rosemary Butler, Eric Schwartz and Dan Navarro.  The evening opened as Freebo and each musician walked through the audience on their way to the stage.

Freebo and Friends - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo and Friends – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo’s new album, If Not Now When, is an introspective collection of the world as he has come to see it over the years, and reflects how he feels about living out his dream of writing songs and then performing them.

His attempt to go solo is a winner on several levels.

Freebo’s voice is reminicent of the great voice of Rick Danko of The Band, and his voice has clearly been severely underutilized over the years. He has a fan base, amassed over the years, who appear to be happily converted to following the solo work.  But maybe the highlight of this independent endeavour is Freebo’s songs inspire, and show others the way to follow their passion. It’s advice he has obviously now taken on for himself.

Dan Navarro with Van Dyke Parks - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Vocalist and songwriter Dan Navarro with the musically talented quipster Van Dyke Parks – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo is fortunate to have amassed an eclectic group of friends and supporters — who were on the stage with him and who were with him in the audience as well.

The friends run the gamut, ranging from the wisecracking young Schwartz, to the legendary Parks. Parks kept the evening running with his midwestern-style asides and quips.

The audience felt right at home yelling out comments about mutual pals, and even making a group phone call to those who weren’t able to attend the show.

The music was a reflection of the group’s interests: Thriving despite the odds, cherishing the miracles of everyday moments and sharing good times and friendship with those around you.  It is clear none of the people on stage take the friendships for granted.

Chad Watson - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Chad Watson – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

As a well-known bassist, Freebo appreciated the efforts and support of Watson, who rips the bass like few others.  Watson is a good natured partner to Freebo, who really “gets” him.  Freebo was a longtime bassist to the likes of musicians including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt and others.

Drummer Jochum is a well-versed producer as well as humble performer.  He produced the album If Not Now When, and helped craft a full-bodied recording — and re-recording — of some of Freebo’s most inspiring works.

A sweet moment during the show was when Freebo and Navarro reminiced about Navarro’s songwriting partner, Eric Lowen, who passed in 2012 after a long battle with Lou Gherig’s disease.

Vocalist Butler, who has worked with most of the famous musicians of the 1970s and 1980s through today, seemed to take the whole night in stride with lots of giggling. She left the audience in amazement with her fabulous voice, singing the Linda Rondstadt song “Adios.”   More than one person nearby was crying from Butler’s rendition of the Jimmy Webb song.

Rosemary Butler gives Freebo a kiss - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Rosemary Butler gives Freebo a kiss – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The audience didn’t have to worry about keeping it together.  Many were close friends, others fans who felt like friends.

“I used to watch Freebo on a show called ‘Mr. Pete,'” said a concert-goer. “He was with the Zydeco Party Band on the show.  That’s one of the reasons I came to see him.”

All in all, Freebo’s journey down his path was welcomed wholeheartedly by an enthusiastic crowd at McCabe’s.  And surrounded by friends, family and fans, it’s easy to see that Freebo is not going the solo route alone.

Freebo In Front: Renowned Bassist Fetes Solo Release with Show at McCabe’s

Freebo’s September Gig at McCabes a Result of his Belief that Success is an ‘Inside Job’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Freebo has made the move from renowned bassist to solo performer and he says that’s worth celebrating.

“I defined myself as a bass player, but moving out front proves you can do anything you set your mind to,” Freebo said.  “I’ve found my happiness, and now I try to help others find success too.”

Freebo reached an important milestone in his personal and professional development:  On Friday, Sept. 4, he releases If Not Now When, a CD featuring music he has written and performs.

He will have a record release party at McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Sept. 18.

If Not Now When is a collection that is a culmination of his years in the music, reflections on his life, and inspirational pieces that motivate those who also want to “follow their bliss.”

Freebo's WebsiteCalling it the “Internal GPS,” Freebo says it took a long time before he made the move to soloist, writing his own songs and performing as a lead figure.  He carved out a career as a reliable sideman to Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, and Crosby Stills and Nash, among others.

“I understood the role of the bass, the chord sequence, the rythm,” said Freebo. “So for years when I played with Bonnie, John Mayall, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, I had no desire to write songs. I didn’t write my first song until I was in my mid-40s.

“You would think I’d be happy to play at Madison Square Garden, Hollywood Bowl, you would think and yes I’m grateful,” Freebo said. “But because I wasn’t true to myself, I wasn’t satisfied. As a bass player I could only express only so many ideas. I enjoyed playing bass but my personal GPS — my inner voice — was screaming to come out.”

Little things got under Freebo’s skin.  He saw opportunities where things could have been done better.

“When things aren’t working, it’s easy for us to blame others,” he said. “They say when you point at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at yourself.  That’s what was happening.  I saw that it’s nobody else’s fault, it’s on me. I have things to express and knew I needed to create the vessel to do that. I realized the vessel was the song and that’s when I made a conscious decison to write songs.”

Freebo is considered among the most accomplished bass players of his era.  He started as a youngster, playing with Raitt since 1971 and has been the a supporting musician to others including Ringo Starr, Maria Muldaur, Neil Young and Dr. John.

“Now I’m a writing fool, I love the process and it has given me the freedom I’m seeking,” Freebo said. “The yearning churning, burning deep inside is gone. I’m much more at peace as a human being, I feel seen for who I am and all of this has led to my getting my speaking engagements.”

Freebo conducts keynote concerts, interspercing music around the inspiring talks he gives.

“I’m sharing my story,” he said. “Down the line I don’t want to experience the regret of not having done it. I thought, ‘If I don’t start writing and singing now I’ll never start.”

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb - photo © Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt with Freebo at Marty Grebb show – photo © Donna Balancia

“That’s why I call it the personal GPS —  going inside to see what’s really going on,” Freebo said.  “The feeling told me you’ve got to create what’s deep inside you that wants to come out.”

Freebo uses his songs as emotional punctuation to the inspiring talks he gives to groups.

“I present and speak to associations, for example I’ve done the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers in Calgary, and I’ve done a whole bunch of new thought churches, some rotary things. I’m looking to expand.

He held two one-week retreats this summer, called Freebo’s Songwriting/Creativity wellness retreat.

“I’m a natural teacher and I like to share what I’ve learned. that’s why I do songwriting retreats. I feel like I’ve got the empathy that someone who has been writing their entire life doesn’t have. I can relate to the fear in comparing yourself.

“When you’re going through crazy times, one of the most healing things to do is to write about it. Put it in an art form. you can write poetry, journal, you can paint, dance and get it out.

For the gig at McCabe’s, Freebo will be accompanied by Fuzzbee Morse, Chad Watson and Michael Jochum and Van Dyke Parks will be sitting in. It’s a celebration with good friends for one of their own who has come up through the ranks of the music industry.

Go to the site and that will take them – read about, listen, hard copy CD or digital download will take Nindip, email server and they also have the stuff.

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