Ian Anderson 4 p.m., Oct. 17
Greg Douglass (Steve Miller Band) breaks in new all-star band overseas
"I'm off to the UK for a kamikaze tour, 13 shows in 13 consecutive days," local guitar legend Greg Douglass tells the Reader. "I'm taking the Former Members, a group consisting of me, keyboardist David Bennett Cohen and bassist Bruce Barthol from Country Joe & the Fish, and Roy Blumenfeld [on drums] from Blues Project and Seatrain."
"We're all really f#cking old, we're playing kick-ass historically important music, and chances are pretty good someone won't survive."
The one-time Steve Miller guitarist says the new ensemble first came together late last year to do a west coast tour backing up former Country Joe & the Fish member David Bennett Cohen, who had a new solo piano album out.
"We didn't draw huge crowds, but the reaction was amazing and there were a lot of videos made of the shows. One made its way to a promoter in the UK, and a tour was booked incredibly quickly." The Former Members left for London on September 30, and then rehearsed at a stone cottage in Wales, where the tour started last Wednesday, October 3.
"Four raping and pillaging -- well, pillaging at least -- maniacal old lunatics crammed into a van full of equipment and cases of Dependz. Several shows are sold out already. The old cliche about Europeans appreciating American musicians, especially those who have carved out relatively successful careers while coloring outside the lines, is absolutely true. My email has been swamped with questions about setlists, and there's an amazing amount of anticipation."
About those setlists, "We'll be obviously doing some Steve Miller tunes like 'Fly Like an Eagle,' some Fish classics like 'I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag,' some Blues Project tunes like 'Wake Me, Shake Me,' and some surprises, including a guitar version of Andy Kulberg's 'Flute Thing,' plus some New Orleans stride piano tunes that David Cohen is a master of."
Douglass promises that every person in the band is at the top of their musical game. "But the BEST part of this endeavor," says the 63 year-old, "is that I'm finally the youngest guy in the band!"
"It's an exciting, completely unexpected trip, and I'm beyond excited and honored to be a part of it. I'll be back on October 18 to rejoin my projects in San Diego, including my second year as resident guitarist at Tuscany Restaurant in La Costa."
Douglass cowrote and played on the Steve Miller Band hit “Jungle Love” (1977), performed on Greg Kihn’s single “Jeopardy” (1983), and he’s toured and recorded with Van Morrison, Duane Eddy, Link Wray, Hot Tuna, Dave Mason, and Eddie Money.
So, how did “Jungle Love” come to be recorded? “Steve’s Book of Dreams album was pretty much a done deal. On the last day of recording, Lonnie Turner, Steve’s bass player and cowriter of the tune, gave Steve a demo of the song we had done at rehearsal. Steve loved the tune and asked if I was available. Calls were made, I was at the studio in 30 minutes, and one half hour after that, the song was in the can.”
The 1977 single charted at number 22, later appearing on Miller’s Greatest Hits 1974–1978 LP, one of the top 40 best-selling albums, with over 13 million copies sold.
He moved to the San Diego area in 1992. “I’m currently living in a big, beautiful house out in Lake Hodges, in the Del Dios-Escondido area,” he says. “We survived the fires, and it’s lovely here. It’s like Mayberry on acid.” Though he could probably live off the royalties from “Jungle Love”-- which was later used as a theme song on early episodes of TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond -- Douglass remains one of the county’s busiest musicians.
“My musical plate is so full, it’s unreal,” he says. “I do solo finger-style gigs, concerts, weddings, funerals, dogfights: you pay, and I’ll play.” Among his ensembles: the Fabulous Pelicans wedding band (“We get paid elephant bucks for traveling to exotic locations”), surf rockers Mo’ Wasabi (“I’m a Ventures junkie”), and the Monsters of Classic Rock, whose members have played with AC/DC, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, and Huey Lewis.
One frequent Monster is guitar heavyweight Rick Derringer. “Going toe-to-toe with Rick and surviving made me happy to have been born,” says Douglass. “Lovely guy, too.”
He also frequently plays with ’60s survivors the Electric Flag, once fronted by the late Mike Bloomfield. “Being asked to fill his shoes was a massive honor,” says Douglass. “We killed at the Monterey Pop Festival 40th Anniversary.”
Douglass' busy work schedule coincides with this week's new U.S. unemployment numbers, which -- according to a White House announcement -- have dropped from 8.2 down to 7.8.
Not that Douglass has always been swimming in dream gigs. “I did a dreary multi-month stint at the Amigo Room, a bar attached to a Denny’s restaurant in Auburn, California. On second thought, I can’t even talk about it. It was that bad.”
So what crappy job CAN he discuss? “I worked in a spice factory in Concord, California, back in the early ’70s. I packaged spices, toxic food additives, and lugged 50-pound bags of soy meal around in 100-degree heat for eight hours a day. My first day on the job I opened a 50-gallon drum of cayenne pepper. My coworkers did not inform me to wear goggles and a nose filter.”
As for his own pet political concern: “The obscene and endless greed of oil companies is ruining our country, with the government pushing things right along. We are each being financially gangbanged on a daily basis. It’s not going to have a pretty end, and I see no change coming.”