Dave Mason at the Colonial Theatre: Nobody's backup now
PITTSFIELD -- For several decades now, Dave Mason has been a witness to rock and roll history.
The 67-year-old Englishman, who will bring his band to the Colonial Theatre Wednesday, has played with luminaries such as Jimi Hendrix, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and the Rolling Stones.
In fact, Mason, himself a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, brings up great stories when a questioner throws him one name or another.
"For the most part, a very soft-spoken guy," said Mason of Hendrix. The two met in 1966 in London. Hendrix had just heard Bob Dylan's version of "All Along the Watchtower" and was eager to cut his own version.
He enlisted Mason as one of his backing musicians.
"Jimi in the studio was a marked contrast from his stage persona. He was all business in the studio," recalled Mason of those sessions. "He wanted it done a certain way, and that's how it was done."
Mason should know. He recorded 27 takes of his guitar part before Hendrix was satisfied.
But it paid off. "Watchtower" reached No. 5 on the UK singles chart and No. 20 on the U.S. charts. The album on which it was included, "Electric Ladyland," is one Hendrix's best.
Mason seemed to be more comfortable as a solo artist than in a group. He helped form the seminal group Traffic, but quit and rejoined the group several times before dropping out. He was also in an early version of Derek and the Dominos with Clapton before leaving that group, as well.
"Well, Eric was in the early days of his difficulties," said Mason, referring diplomatically to Clapton's growing heroin habit. "When we were in the studio, there wasn't a lot of music being made, so I exited sooner rather than later."
Mason pointed out that his most famous solo effort, "We Just Disagree," written for him In 1977 by Jim Kreuger, was recently featured on Geraldo Rivera's radio talk show.
"Yeah, given what's happening in Washington, Geraldo suggested that it become the new national anthem," laughed Mason.
Talking about his tour, Mason suggested that both of those songs will be on his upcoming set list.
"It will be some early numbers and some songs from later in my career," he said. "We'll try to have a little of everything."
When he's not touring and playing music, Mason says he likes to sit at home and, well, play music.
"I'm usually in my studio, working on my own stuff, if I'm at home," he said.
"I don't listen to any of the modern stuff," he said, when asked for his musical preferences. "I just don't have any interest. I enjoy Classical music, jazz, blues and old-style rock and roll."
Mason has been on the road for this tour for a few months now, and will be finishing up in November. But he has been playing rock and roll for 50 years now.
"I really enjoy playing," he said. "I like getting up on stage. Touring gets a little tiring, but to be honest, I don't really think I'm going to quit and start looking for another job at this point."
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.