4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

I am the Delta Lady

Joe Cocker lifted Rita Coolidge

Rita Coolidge
Rita Coolidge

Perhaps no one owes more to the recently departed soul singer Joe Cocker as does Rita Coolidge. A Fallbrook resident for 19 years, Coolidge has won two Grammys, released 17 solo albums (plus three with ex-husband Kris Kristofferson), and had a string of hits in the 1970s and ’80s, including “Higher and Higher,” “We’re All Alone,” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

A Florida State graduate, Coolidge was singing in Memphis when Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett brought her to L.A. to join their loose-knit rock troupe. Most of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends (Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Jim Gordon) were tapped to join Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a 1970 entourage that led to a live double album and a rock documentary. Cocker gave her the opportunity to sing lead vocals on “Superstar” on that tour. Coolidge says the opportunity led to a solo career and an A&M Records contract.

Coolidge took the time to speak with the Reader about her career and relationship with Joe Cocker.

How was it that most of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends became part of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen entourage?

“It was an emergency. This tour was about to hit the road and Joe didn’t have a band. He told them he didn’t want to do the tour. They told him that was not an option and he had to get a band together and quick. Then Leon [Russell] and [producer] Denny Cordell pulled everyone in. We rehearsed nonstop for four or five days. The tour left with 45 men, women, and children and their pets. Everybody worked really hard to pull this together. This was like the first tour rock movie documentary, way before Spinal Tap.”

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends seemed like a carefree group of happy hippies.

“We were all friends. We would get together and sing before each show. We’d sing on the bus... But Mad Dogs and Englishmen had all these different groups who didn’t talk to each other. The bond wasn’t there. It was very chaotic.... Joe and I were the best of friends. I sat next to him on the plane. There were so many times when I said I just can’t do this [tour] anymore. I weighed less than 100 pounds. He said I couldn’t leave because he was the only friend he had on the tour. We were best friends. Joe was the kindest, gentlest, softest man — the opposite of how his raspy voice resonated.”

John Belushi’s flailing, over-the-top Cocker imitation was mentioned in Cocker’s obituaries. But Joe did not have cerebral palsy or onstage exorcisms, right?

“I compare what he did with guitar players who make faces when they play certain high notes. That was just his body moving with the music. It was like air guitar. It wasn’t anything pretentious. He also did that in studio. Like Ray Charles, God gave him his gift in a certain way.”

Is it true Cocker was bankrupt at the end of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour?

“At the end of the Mad Dogs tour he was literally sleeping on the floor at Denny Cordell’s house. He didn’t have money to buy a guitar. Joe was a very simple man from working-class Sheffield [in England]. In the mid ’70s, Graham Nash and I visited his parents. They were very working-class. His mother took me into Joe’s bedroom. Everything was the same.”

Some accounts say Cocker was too drunk to sing some nights.

“He was never too drunk to play [a Mad Dogs show]. We recorded every show we did, so that can be proved. He was very private, almost shy. I think the reason why he drank and did the other stuff was to bring himself out.”

Is it true “Delta Lady” was written about you? Did you get royalties?

“I am the Delta Lady. Leon [Russell] and I were just breaking up. He wrote it for Joe. No, I didn’t get any royalties.”

Past Event

Rita Coolidge

Have you met any of your current musician neighbors, such as James Hetfield or Jason Mraz?

“I haven’t met them. I am a fan of Jason’s and would love to meet him when the time is right. I’ve lived in Fallbrook, which is one of the greatest places to live, for almost 19 years. I feel like just another girl who lives in Fallbrook. I’m playing for a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club February 28.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Thank God (and the Irenic) for new all-ages venue

Building Bridges in Clairemont Mesa
Rita Coolidge
Rita Coolidge

Perhaps no one owes more to the recently departed soul singer Joe Cocker as does Rita Coolidge. A Fallbrook resident for 19 years, Coolidge has won two Grammys, released 17 solo albums (plus three with ex-husband Kris Kristofferson), and had a string of hits in the 1970s and ’80s, including “Higher and Higher,” “We’re All Alone,” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

A Florida State graduate, Coolidge was singing in Memphis when Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett brought her to L.A. to join their loose-knit rock troupe. Most of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends (Leon Russell, Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Jim Gordon) were tapped to join Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a 1970 entourage that led to a live double album and a rock documentary. Cocker gave her the opportunity to sing lead vocals on “Superstar” on that tour. Coolidge says the opportunity led to a solo career and an A&M Records contract.

Coolidge took the time to speak with the Reader about her career and relationship with Joe Cocker.

How was it that most of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends became part of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen entourage?

“It was an emergency. This tour was about to hit the road and Joe didn’t have a band. He told them he didn’t want to do the tour. They told him that was not an option and he had to get a band together and quick. Then Leon [Russell] and [producer] Denny Cordell pulled everyone in. We rehearsed nonstop for four or five days. The tour left with 45 men, women, and children and their pets. Everybody worked really hard to pull this together. This was like the first tour rock movie documentary, way before Spinal Tap.”

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends seemed like a carefree group of happy hippies.

“We were all friends. We would get together and sing before each show. We’d sing on the bus... But Mad Dogs and Englishmen had all these different groups who didn’t talk to each other. The bond wasn’t there. It was very chaotic.... Joe and I were the best of friends. I sat next to him on the plane. There were so many times when I said I just can’t do this [tour] anymore. I weighed less than 100 pounds. He said I couldn’t leave because he was the only friend he had on the tour. We were best friends. Joe was the kindest, gentlest, softest man — the opposite of how his raspy voice resonated.”

John Belushi’s flailing, over-the-top Cocker imitation was mentioned in Cocker’s obituaries. But Joe did not have cerebral palsy or onstage exorcisms, right?

“I compare what he did with guitar players who make faces when they play certain high notes. That was just his body moving with the music. It was like air guitar. It wasn’t anything pretentious. He also did that in studio. Like Ray Charles, God gave him his gift in a certain way.”

Is it true Cocker was bankrupt at the end of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour?

“At the end of the Mad Dogs tour he was literally sleeping on the floor at Denny Cordell’s house. He didn’t have money to buy a guitar. Joe was a very simple man from working-class Sheffield [in England]. In the mid ’70s, Graham Nash and I visited his parents. They were very working-class. His mother took me into Joe’s bedroom. Everything was the same.”

Some accounts say Cocker was too drunk to sing some nights.

“He was never too drunk to play [a Mad Dogs show]. We recorded every show we did, so that can be proved. He was very private, almost shy. I think the reason why he drank and did the other stuff was to bring himself out.”

Is it true “Delta Lady” was written about you? Did you get royalties?

“I am the Delta Lady. Leon [Russell] and I were just breaking up. He wrote it for Joe. No, I didn’t get any royalties.”

Past Event

Rita Coolidge

Have you met any of your current musician neighbors, such as James Hetfield or Jason Mraz?

“I haven’t met them. I am a fan of Jason’s and would love to meet him when the time is right. I’ve lived in Fallbrook, which is one of the greatest places to live, for almost 19 years. I feel like just another girl who lives in Fallbrook. I’m playing for a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club February 28.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Bob McPhail wrote about illnesses, finally dies of them

With Reader from 1987 to 2018
Next Article

Thank God (and the Irenic) for new all-ages venue

Building Bridges in Clairemont Mesa
Comments
1

The super-talented Leon Russell was part of that large number of amazing Oklahoma singers/songwriters that continues to this day. Just a few names: Gene Autry, Hoyt Axton, Bob Wills, Patti Page, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Roger Miller, Lee Hazlewood, B.J. Thomas, Blake Shelton, Elvin Bishop, The Gap Band, Kings of Leon, Hanson, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Roy Clark, Jimmy Webb, Vince Gill, David Gates, and--of course--Woody Guthrie (who is honored in a new museum in the historic district of Tulsa).

Jan. 8, 2015

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close