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MusiCares Raises More Than $8 Million in Honoring Tom Petty as MusiCares Person of the Year

Musical Pals of Tom Petty Come Out to Honor Him as MusiCares Person of the Year

By DONNA BALANCIA

Tom Petty and pals helped raise more than $8 million as the he was celebrated as the MusiCares Person of the Year.

Each year, the MusiCares tribute a highlight of GRAMMY week, as it raises money for health needs of musicians and honors a major artist.

The Red Carpet was packed with music stars ranging from Gary Clark Jr., to Jeff Lynne.

Cage The Elephant keeping it lively on the Red Carpet at Tom Petty Person of the Year - PHoto © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cage The Elephant keeping it lively on the Red Carpet at Tom Petty Person of the Year – PHoto © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cage The Elephant, Stevie Nicks on the Red Carpet

The night was dedicated to Petty with his songs performed  by veterans Don Henley Foo Fighters, Taj Mahal and George Strait as well as young bands The Head and The Heart, Cage The Elephant and The Lumineers.

The ladies did their part in honoring Petty as well with Lucinda Williams and Regina Spektor bringing some flash to the show.

Jackson Browne brought some emotions to the songs “Waiting is the Hardest Part” and “Learning to Fly.”

Stevie Nicks: 'Tom Petty is my BFFFFFFFFF' - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Stevie Nicks: ‘Tom Petty is my BFFFFFFFFF’ – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Stevie Nicks sang a duet with Petty, their famous 1981 hit “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” as Petty said she was practically family. Nicks told East Coast Rocker that Petty was her “BFFFFFFF” and how he penned at least one or two famous songs for her.

Tom Petty Talks Leon Russell, Johnny Cash

In accepting the honor, Petty recalled that Johnny Cash helped him, and Mo Ostin rescued Petty’s “Free Falling,” and put the song out when MCA turned it down.

Petty said he was on his best behavior as his family was in the audience.

In a speech he made to the elegantly dressed audience of rock and roll fans, Petty recalled some stories of his mentors including Leon Russell and Johnny Cash.

Tom Petty proud to wear his sunglasses at night - Photo courtesy of Libby Kaufman

Tom Petty proud to wear his sunglasses at night – Photo courtesy of Libby Kaufman

He said Russell told him he had to “earn” the right to wear dark glasses at night.

“He said ‘s what the hell you doin’ with the dark glasses,'” Petty recalled.  “I said, ‘I don’t know it feels cool like Jimmy Keltner.’ He said, ‘Wearing sunglasses at night is an honor you earn. Lou Adler had Johnny Rivers and the Mamas and Papas before he put them glasses on. Jack Nicholson made really shitty Boris Karloff movies before he put them glasses on.’ Well,” Petty said as he lifted his sunglasses to his face, “I’m putting my glasses on.”

Jeff Lynne plays at Tom Petty Person of the Year tribute - Photo courtesy Jannie Hillstrom

Jeff Lynne plays at Tom Petty Person of the Year tribute – Photo courtesy Jannie Hillstrom

Petty said he was fortunate enough to know the great Johnny Cash and loved his song “Big River.” He said young songwriters should listen to “Big River” about 60 times and “You’ll write something.”

Petty and the Heartbreakers made an album with Johnny Cash, Unchained, which won a GRAMMY for the best country record of the year “without being played once on a country station.”

“This morning I was looking through a box and a letter fell out, it was from John on my 50th birthday, and it said Happy Birthday, you’re a good man to ride the river with.” That’s all I want to be is a good man to ride the river with and I’m gonna keep riding the river.”

#musicares

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Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs Get The Canyon Club Crowd to Their Dancing Feet

Originals and Covers by ‘Under The Radar’ Band Delight Fans

Mike Campbell - Photo © 2016 Heather Harris

Mike Campbell – Photo © 2016 Heather Harris

By DONNA BALANCIA

Mike Campbell and his band The Dirty Knobs have vast riches: Their fans are more precious than gold.

“We love Mike, we have been following him for years,” said Cheryl Marino and her husband Bill Drews. “We see him when he plays in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, we’ve seen Mudcrutch and we love The Dirty Knobs. We’re true ‘Knob Heads.'”

The Dirty Knobs band may be a “side” project for Campbell with his band mates Jason Sinay, Matt Laug on drums and Lance Morrison on bass, but it’s front and center to the audience.

“This band is under the radar but we have a very solid group of fans,” Campbell told CaliforniaRocker.com.

“It’s a small group but they’re extremely devoted.”

Campbell and Sinay

dirty-knobs-canyon-balancia-1-of-1

Jason Sinay – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Campbell is a prolific songwriter whose work has been performed and recorded by everyone from The Eagles to Stevie Nicks not to mention his own Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. In addition, he’s performed with or produced more artists than most people can name. Check out his work at Allmusic.com

Sinay, known as Ape, is no slouch as he has been establishing himself as a working musician over the years.

We recently came across his solo LP on which he has an assortment of impressive originals and covers.

Dirty Knobs Keep it Fresh

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed 'Knob Heads' - Photo by Donna Balancia

Cheryl Marino and Bill Drews are self-confessed ‘Knob Heads’ – Photo by Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs like to change it up. When we saw them at The Echo a year ago it was a different crowd than it was at the Canyon Club and the set list showed that. The Canyon show wrapped with Jimi Hendrix, which was “off the set list,” as Mike said. But other tunes included “Easy Wind,” by the Grateful Dead,” and even “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

The Dirty Knobs haven’t recorded an EP and it doesn’t look likely in the near future, but if they did it would likely be in their casual style.

Opener Marc Ford, taking a page out of Campbell’s book, sported a felt fedora and had the audience on its feet with a strong performance.

The Dirty Knobs play on Dec. 11 at The Rose in Pasadena.

Mike Campbell with the fans - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell with the fans – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Exclusive Interview: Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs Open The Door to Fun With SoCal Shows

A Rare Chat With All Four Top Musicians in The Dirty Knobs

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

The Dirty Knobs have one mission with their live performances: Fun.

And plenty of fun is on the horizon for fans of this animal-nicknamed band of musicians who will be playing several Southern California gigs.

The Dirty Knobs is comprised of Mike Campbell on vocals and lead, guitarist Jason Sinay, Matt Laug on drums and Lance Morrison on bass. They even have little nicknames for each other, with Mike known as “Gator,” guitarist Jason known as “Ape,” drummer Matt is “Swampfox,” and Lance is “Crawdaddy.”

“We stay under the radar mainly so there’s no conflict of interest with other bands,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a well-known songwriter, is the lead guitarist and co-founder of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “As long as that’s going on, we’re keeping The Dirty Knobs on the down low.”

Campbell said The Dirty Knobs are about the music.

“The band exists for fun,” he said. “I get to sing and try new songs out. I play and write every day.”

CHECK OUT THE DIRTY KNOBS AT ECHOPLEX on CALIFORNIAROCKER.COM

What’s Behind the Knobs’ Name?

While it may sound a little suggestive, the name of the band actually came about through a tactile experience not of a sexual nature.

Matt Laug, known as 'Swampfox' of The Dirty Knobs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Matt Laug, known as ‘Swampfox’ of The Dirty Knobs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“There was a dirty knob on the amp so I said ‘That’s what we’re gonna call ourselves, The Dirty Knobs!'” he said. “Yes, there’s somewhat of a double entendre, but it’s all in good fun.”

The band has been playing some relatively high-profile gigs including the Telluride’s Ride Festival last year. There are recordings of some Dirty Knobs songs, but those haven’t been released.

“We do it for the songs and for the joy of playing,” Mike said. “Once you start promoting the band it turns the energy into something else, so we’re under the radar.

“We do oddball covers, that’s our little niche,” Mike said. “When we walk, out we’re not going to play the hits. And if you like us, fine.”

“Our covers are pretty obscure,” said Jason, who has come up with a lot of the cover song suggestions. “Of all the songs we do I don’t think I have a favorite, I love them all. But what do I know? I’m just an ape in a tree with a banana.”

Mike Campbell: Dirty Knobs is a Real ‘Boys Club’

“We all gave ourselves nicknames,” Mike said. “It’s a real boys club.”

How did these musicians come together?

“I met the bass player through the drummer, and the drummer through the roadie,” Mike recalled.

Chinner, the guitar tech, is the connecting factor for The Dirty Knobs. He’s the unassuming, go-to guy for anything related to the Dirty Knobs. He brought the guys together.

“In 1987, I was working for the Georgia Satellites, I became friends with Tom Petty’s longtime guitar tech Alan “Bugs” Weidel and he hired me in 1990. I’ve been here ever since.”

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs, and co-founder of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs, and co-founder of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Matt the drummer, known as “Swampfox,” also has a prolific pedigree.

“Mike’s guitar tech called me personally and I said I know a bass player who’s pretty good and that’s how we got Lance,” he said. “That was 12 years ago and we’ve been rockin’ ever since.”

Matt says music and drumming require continual work.

“Nobody’s mastered this,” he said. “That’s why doctors call it a ‘practice.’ That’s the way I feel, we’re always improving.”

Matt has a great pedigree having played with Alice Cooper and Slash. He’s on DW Drums, Paiste Cymbals, REMO drumheads and Vic Firth Drumsticks. The band uses Fender amps.

“I met Lance the bass player on a gig 22 years ago,” he said. “Some years later I met Ape and then Chinner asked if I wanted to audition.”

Keeping it Local and In the Family

And it’s not easy to get musicians like these. But for Matt, there was one thing that reeled him in.

“We knew right away this would be a great project because we didn’t have to jump on a plane at 4 a.m. or hop in a van or sell merch,” he said. “This is a fun band that loves performing.”

Matt, in turn, brought along Lance the bass player, known as Crawdaddy. Crawdaddy has spent 17 years in Don Henley’s band. And for him too this is a fun side project.

“Mike co-wrote a lot of the hits with Don Henley, so everyone knows each other,” Crawdaddy said. “The way I feel, literally, when I play with the Knobs is it’s like playing with friends from high school. It’s really pure and it’s what we all started playing music for. I think if we did a record we would kill it, but we’re all pretty busy. We’re happy when we can find the time to get together.”

Live in Los Angeles

The Dirty Knobs fans are pretty fortunate to live in Los Angeles, where the band stays. And how did the Knobs happen to pick LA a home base?

Jason Sinay, known as 'Ape' - for a furry guy he plays a great guitar - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jason Sinay, known as ‘Ape’ – for a furry guy he plays a great guitar – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“When I came out here with the Heartbreakers we had a chance to live in New York or LA and the weather was the reason we picked LA,” Mike said.

The shows will also include someone the band considers a sort-of fifth Knob, Marc Ford.

“About seven or eight years ago we did a gig at NAMM for Duesenberg,” Jason recalled. ” We liked him and he sat in with us. It was easy.”

Ford will be playing as opener on the shows.

Jason said it’s been relatively easy to fit in as a Knob. For him, he was nervous about trying out. And he didn’t react to Mike’s trademark wild hair.

“Mike didn’t have the hair back then but if he did it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “I didn’t care I just wanted to be in this band. When I auditioned, I was thinking ‘Please don’t make a mistake.’

About selling merch, the band said they may do that one day as well.

“I have one T-shirt and I treasure it,” Matt said.

Marc Ford a 'fifth Knob' - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Marc Ford a ‘fifth Knob’ – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

As for the venues, Matt said: “We go where the people want us to play,” he said. “Some places are closing so we’re lucky to have the beautiful venues we play in. For instance, we used to play a place called Cozy’s, which is gone. But in Southern California there are some great places.”

The Dirty Knobs play the Coach House in Orange County tonight; Saint Rocke in Hermosa on Friday; the Soho in Santa Barbara on Nov. 25; The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Dec. 1; and The Rose in Pasadena on Dec. 11.

 

 

Mike Campbell Uses His LA Band, The Dirty Knobs, for Kicks, While Reaping Big Marketing Rewards

Mike Campbell: Smart marketer - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Mike Campbell: Smart marketer – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

By DONNA BALANCIA – Mike Campbell may be known as “Gator,” in his band The Dirty Knobs but the only thing ferocious about him is his extraordinary guitar playing.

Campbell, known for his day job as Tom Petty’s guitarist and co-founder of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, is one of the most “social” onstage musicians around.  Younger musicians can take a page out of his book.  Campbell recently kept the house at the Echoplex in jovial spirits as The Dirty Knobs paced a fast and rockin’ show.

As the performance becomes ever more important in the financial health of a band’s career, Campbell sets an example of what to do onstage to retain a fan base.  As many of the audience members at the Echoplex knew his ‘schtick,’ it’s clear Campbell keeps ’em coming back again and again.

How?  With fantastic music, and he addresses audience members individually with compliments and quips.

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Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay share a moment – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“And I’m Steve,” Campbell joked after introducing his band known by nicknames: Ape (guitarist Jason Sinay), Swampfox (drummer Matt Laug) and Crawdaddy (Lance Morrison).  And the audience members, getting in on the fun, did just that, calling out the newly created moniker between songs, yelling “Yay Steve,” and having a good time.

In between the songs there was a reverential silence akin only to being in the presence of greatness.  Campbell pointed it out, saying The Dirty Knobs play biker bars where glass is smashed, so it’s nice to have the silence between songs once in a while.  But from that point on, there would be little of that for “Shecky” Campbell.

Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Heckling Has its Rewards With The Dirty Knobs

“You’re bitchin!” called out one gal from the audience.

Not missing a beat, Campbell asked her name — Laurie? — and said that was the nicest thing anyone had called him. He promptly invited her to the front of the audience as a reward.

He singled out a lady photographer in the audience saying she had a hairstyle that reminded him of “Mrs. George Harrison.” Of course, the comment was not lost on the photographer — none other than the renowned veteran rock shooter, Heather Harris.

Swampfox - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Swampfox – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Campbell has volumes of experience in big-time music biz, not counting the massive worldwide touring with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Campbell has co-written songs with a bevy of heavy hitter musicians including Don Henley, Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne.

He co-produced most of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers albums, along with Petty’s solo recordings. But yet, this guitarist who’s been named to almost every “top guitarist” list that exists likes the simple things: His doggie table where his beer and towel rest during his show, his Rickenbacker guitar and playing music.

Campbell started The Dirty Knobs as a way to have fun and play music he enjoys. It also gives him a way to keep in close touch with the people, which seems to becoming less and less valued but is needed more than ever.

Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Marc Ford – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“What I like is that he really takes note of who’s in the audience,” said an Echoplex concert-goer named Bobby. “He looks everyone in the eye, he winks. He smiles and he cracks jokes – I think he’s having fun.”

It’s obvious he’s doing just that. The Dirty Knobs, name aside, is a powerful group aside from being a great marketing tool for Campbell. The band has some amazing originals, but also covers The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead, much to the appreciation of a diverse audience, ranging in age from 20s to late 60s.

The undercards were no slouches either. Marc Ford and his band had played earlier in the evening and Campbell called the well known guitarist for the Black Crowes up to jam with the Knobs.  It’s easy to see why Ford has done so well in the competitive world of music.

Jeremy White - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Jeremy White – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

 

Local Band: The Blessings

The opening band, The Blessings, are a local favorite the audience appreciates.  Frontman Jeremy White looks the part of an upscale rocker from the 1970s as one astute audence member commented.

The other band members impress with drummer Jason Upright, keyboardist Jeffrey Howell, Duffy Snowhill on bass, Mike Gavigan on lead guitar and backing vocalist Lavone Barnett.

But more than their appearance, The Blessings have matured into a contender for RNR success. Two of their CD releases, Shipwrecked and Tomahawk Inn, are of special note.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”27″ gal_title=”Mike Campbell, Marc Ford, The Blessings”]

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