While in the midst of writing tunes for the project, I received a call from Billy Stern. Billy is an old friend who recently became a board member of Guitars in the Classroom. Billy invited me to a GITC fundraiser that featured The Quarrymen. The show was hosted by Sirius Satellite Radio’s Chris Carter from “Breakfast With The Beatles.” My brother, Teddy, is a producer with Sirius, and I figured with the combination of Teddy and Billy, I’d get to meet The Q-men. It worked, and I invited them to dinner in Malibu the next day. They had a full schedule, which was growing by the minute, but they really wanted to see Malibu beach (and my guitar pool).
After dinner, I invited them to see my studio. I had already set it up with the song I wanted them to sing on. I made the proposition, and they gladly complied. Their friendly demeanor and thick, scouser accents transformed the song and took it right back to 1964. Later on, Len Garry told me he couldn’t believe that Colin (Hanton) had sung on the tune. He and Rod (Davis) had been trying to get him to sing for years, but he never would. Len surmised that Colin felt obliged after the ride to the beach in my ’41 Ford Woody and my wife Joan’s great dinner. Furthermore, he confirmed that this was Colin’s first recorded vocal performance. Remember, Colin was in the original Beatles’ lineup and drummed on their primitive demo. His drumming is on the Beatles’ Anthology album. Now I was off and running!
With The Quarrymen on board, I contacted Rhino Records founder Harold Bronson. I had met Ian Whitcomb at Harold’s home and was hoping he’d remind Ian of that and set the stage for Ian to participate. An e-mail went out, and Ian happily complied. His period “megaphone” vocals worked great on “A Bit of Awright.”
I also knew that Harold knew Spencer Davis and hoped he’d do the same. I had met Spencer several times in the distant past, and Walter had been on a bill with him in Nashville not so long ago. Harold gave me his number. It turned out that Spencer had been a great friend of our late drummer, Bruce Gary. He was happy to participate as a tribute to Bruce, and he also arranged for me to see him in concert at the Wiltern Theatre. The Zombies and The Yardbirds were also on the bill.
Guitar Center’s Ray Scheer is a friend from the classic car world who also owns Favored Nations Records, The Yardbirds’ record label. In the late ’60s, our band had been on the bill with former Yardbird Keith Relf’s band Renaissance, and, although none of the other ex-Yardbird/ Renaissance musicians were in the current lineup, I felt there was enough of a connection to get a conversation going.
Ray set up the e-mail connection, and I began a dialogue with Jim McCarty, the original Yardbirds’ drummer. I got to spend some time with him backstage at the Wiltern concert. Jim was into participating, but their hectic schedule didn’t allow for it.