Monday, February 16, 1998

Steve Cropper

Harris: The 20th annual Bartenders Ball takes place this Saturday night at the Convention Center. This is traditionally the biggest bash of the year. The highlight of this year's Bartender Ball is an appearance by the original Blues Brothers band, and joining us on the phone now is a member of that band as well as a man, well, if you look at this man's credits over the years, they're amazing: Booker T and the MG's with that classic Green Onions and he co-wrote Soul Man for Sam and Dave and lots of others. In the Blues Brothers version of Soul Man, you here Belushi yell, "play it, Steve!" Well, this is the "Steve!" This is Steve Cropper. Hi, thanks for coming on with us live from Muscle Shoals, where you're in the middle of a session?

Cropper: You got it.

Harris: I was looking through these credits. Otis Redding's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Eddie Floyd's Knock on Wood, Wicked Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour. You co-wrote or worked on most of those. How did you get involved in the Blues Brothers? Belushi was, I know, a big fan of the Stax years and all that stuff you guys had done. Did he invite you personally?

Cropper: Yeah, absolutely. I was in the studio and he called me and said, "Hi, this is John Belushi." And I said, "Yeah, right, and I'm the Pope." His opening statement was, "I heard you and Donald Duck Dunn don't get along?" So that's his introduction to me. I had met him before and he had seen the RCO all-stars play, which is pretty much the same band, same horns and Duck Dunn and myself, and when Levon Helm was doing his solo thing and we played up in New York at a New Year's Eve party and John had seen us. So he kind of said, "I want that band," you know?

Harris: Well, he certainly couldn't have gotten better guys. You guys were right there at the core of all that music that he loved. When you guys would sit down with him and talk about that, was he sitting there wide-eyed as a fan like, "Wow! You guys worked with Wicked Picket?"

Cropper: Yeah. I think so, he was really honored. He wasn't too sure about me, you know, I had long hair and a long beard and all that. He said, "No, that guy is a roadie, he's not Steve Cropper!" So I think Phil Walden set him straight one night in the back of a limo.

Harris: Do you still have that look?

Cropper: No, not quite. I've got a pony tail now. I still got the long hair and I've shortened the beard. I don't look as Amish as I used to.

Harris: Now, the Blues Brothers started out just as a joke because Belushi and Aykroyd were fans of that R&B stuff that you guys had created. So they started like a house band joke on Saturday Night Live, right?

Cropper: Yeah, they used to warm up the crowd with it.

Harris: And then they called you and Duck Dunn and actually put a band together. I want you, if you could, to take me back to that night at the Universal Amphitheater in '78 when you guys were the opening act for Steve Martin and it turned into the Briefcase Full of Blues album. What were you thinking as you were standing backstage that night?

Cropper: Well, it was pretty unbelievable. We were glad to be there and we didn't know what the reaction was gonna be, because people were really there to see Steve Martin. And I really think the story begins the second night because, about an hour before we went on, the audience was shouting "Blues Brothers! Blues Brothers!" We couldn't believe it, just in one night. The word got out. And you can hear that because the Briefcase Full of Blues is the live pieces of the live shows that we did that week.

Harris: Now you won't have the Blues Brothers -- Belushi, Aykroyd, John Goodman obviously won't be here when you're in town Saturday night. Who is the lead singer now?

Cropper: Well, we have Tommy McDonald, who's been with Lou Marini's band up in New York for a long time, and Tommy's been on the road with us now for almost three years, and we also have the great Eddie Floyd.

Harris: Oh, really? Is he gonna do Knock On Wood??

Cropper: He will do Knock On Wood and he will also sing 634-5789, which he does in the movie with Wilson and Eddie, and I also wrote that song for Wilson.

Harris: Who's in the new movie, Blues Brothers 2000? What other musicians? I know James Brown and Aretha come back, right?

Cropper: Oh, my goodness. Well, we have B.B. King, we have Bo Diddley, we have Eric Clapton, we have Travis Tritt, we have Jimmy Vaughan, we have Steve Winwood, we have Dr. John, we have Clarence Clemons.

Harris: I hear the jam at the end is just like one of those dream bands.

Cropper: It's unbelievable. For singers we've got Lou Rawls, we've got Gary US Bands, Koko Taylor, Isaac Hayes, on and on and on, it's amazing!

Harris: Speaking of singers, how is John Goodman as a singer?

Cropper: He's great.

Harris: Yeah?

Cropper: He's just all energy. The guy really loves the music. Highly respects it and works very hard at trying to do the right thing.

Harris: What happened to Jim Belushi along the way? I know the did the Super Bowl last year and there were three Blues Brothers at that gig. What happened to him with Blues Brothers 2000?

Cropper: Well, that's unfortunate. He and the lawyers and the studio just didn't see eye to eye. So he had overlapped the project and we had to start, you know, and I guess he thought we wouldn't start without him, but we had to. We didn't have a choice.

Harris: Gotcha. And what is this I hear about a Blues Brothers cartoon?

Cropper: Well, that's in the works.

Harris: Really?

Cropper: Yep, I hope so.

Harris: You gonna be animated, Steve?

Cropper: Wouldn't that be nice?

Harris: Not that you're not animated on stage. I don't mean it that way.

Cropper: Well, Garry Trudeau put me in the Doonesbury strip many years ago. So I've been a cartoon once, you know. My friends tell me that I'm a cartoon all the time.

Harris: The last thing I want to ask you is, I was looking through the credits knowing you were coming on today. You've worked with all those great R&B singers, plus Rod Stewart and Sammy Hagar and Leon Russell and Neil Young...

Cropper: Wow, you're up on this stuff, aren't you?

Harris: Well, I did my homework.

Cropper: What can I say, I am a very, very lucky guy. I mean, I've had a great career and I still get to do it and get to hang out with all these wonderful people and it's just a blast.

Harris: Is there anybody that you wished you worked with or still want to work with?

Cropper: That's a good question. I'm sure there's several, but the one who always comes to mind is probably Tina Turner. I never got to work with Tina Turner. But I've been on stage with Ike and that's -- I'm half there, you know?

Harris: But the view from the band perspective is much better on Tina isn't it?

Cropper: [laughs] Oh, absolutely!

Harris: Steve, I appreciate you jumping out of your session to come on this afternoon.

Cropper: Okay, Paul. See you soon.

Copyright 1998, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Sean Healey.

Sunday, February 15, 1998

John Pinette

Harris: We welcome to our guest microphone now, comedian John Pinette, who had quite a VIP day today -- you had lunch at the Capitol?

Pinette: Yes, I did.

Harris: As a guest of a major politician. Should we name this major politician?

Pinette: You know, it wasn't a big deal. It was a very nice lunch. There were only three of us there. It was Leader Gephart, Dick Gephart. We actually call him, "Il Duce." No, it was, it was great. I'll tell you, you wonder, is this gonna be an elaborate buffet kind of thing? If you eat too much, do you throw the budget off? You know, you see Clinton up there with the big zero sign and he's crossing it off.

Harris: That's right. Now, this was in the House dinning room?

Pinette: No, this was in his office.

Harris: Catered!

Pinette: It was catered, yes.

Harris: Now, that, my friend, is at the taxpayers' expense!

Pinette: No, it's not. Actually, it's at his expense.

Harris: Really?

Pinette: Absolutely. He sprung for a buffet for me. It was nice.

Harris: What did he serve you? I'm curious.

Pinette: He's a health nut, very healthy.

Harris: Now, I'm looking at you and I'm guessing that you, like me, are not a health nut.

Pinette: I am also a health nut, yes.

Harris: You are a large person, larger than I am, and health and nut...

Pinette: ...don't go together. I love nuts, but that's it. I like to be healthy, but I'm not a nut about it. Call me happy medium Johnny when it comes to health.

Harris: So, what, they bring tofu?

Pinette: No, veggie burgers, which I don't mind. But you gotta eat four or five of them to fill you up. [laughs] I mean, I'm starving here! I got a veggie burger. A veggie burger does not a meal make.

Harris: [laughs] Right.

Pinette: I say nay! Nay! So, a veggie burger and some other stuff, but we were so busy talking I really didn't eat. So now I'm starving. Do you have any Chinese food in here? Do you have any delivery?

Harris: We're ordering in just a minute.

Pinette: Ahhh. I would kill.

Harris: We'll bring the menu in. Is that your favorite, Chinese food?

Pinette: Oh, I love chinese. I can't go to any buffets, I mean they have my picture. Big slash through it. [with chinese accent] "No buffet, buffet not for you. Son of a bitch! You cause trouble, you no come here!" I went to one place that said, "Grand Opening! Chinese Buffet!" I got to the front, the Chinese guy said, "we closed." It says Grand Opening up there, pal. "No, we closed, no buffet here. We dry clean now. You cause trouble." It's not my fault I get hungry! I eat Chinese, I'm there for two-three days.

Harris: [laughs]

Pinette: It is the most economical as far as the buffet goes. You go to a buffet, it's $8.95. You have a plate of food, a plate of food cost you $8.95.

Harris: Exactly.

Pinette: You go twice, a plate of food cost you half that.

Harris: You're down to $4.50 now.

Pinette: I'm paying two, three cents a plate.

Harris: So you're getting real value for your money?

Pinette: Absolutely. It's an economical way to do things. And sometimes they give you cash to leave. "You no have to pay! Just go!" The Vegas buffets are the best. You were just in Vegas?

Harris: I was in Vegas about 6 weeks ago, yes.

Pinette: The Monte Carlo. Now, they don't have a buffet at the Monte Carlo.

Harris: No, they do not. There are other places with the $1.99 all you can eat shrimp and steak buffet.

Pinette: They are cutting them back though. I worked at Sahara, they haven't ask me back surprisingly enough. The breakfast buffet, all you can eat $2.49. I could eat more than $2.49 worth of toast. I was there for an hour, they gave me chips to go back and gamble. Now the MGM is my favorite buffet in the whole world. It really is.

Harris: Why is that?

Pinette: Because its the Oz buffet! The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie and they made it a buffet. You walk up it's the Emerald City, and it's a buffet! I ran to it! [singing songs from the movie] "You're out of the woods, you're out of the dark, you're out of the night!" "Prime ribs and pork chops and scampi, oh my!" "Are you a good witch or a bad witch? I want a sandwich, get out of my way!"

Harris: Is there any item as you are going across the buffet that you would not eat?

Pinette: Salad. Salad! It horrifies me. Salad give me a nervous tick. You try to like it, because when you diet you have to diet, obviously. I go on diets all the time. And when you diet they put on a lot of salad and that is what makes me snap. I go postal on salad. I can't take it. The first day you eat a salad you go, "Mmm, I'm gonna have a salad, mmm." Then after the second day, the nervous tick starts. You start to go to gun stores. And you try to dress the salad up a little bit, you put a little chicken in there.

Harris: Sure.

Pinette: Maybe some chocolate cake. It's still not good, though.

Harris: No, that's not good for the diet.

Pinette: I lose my cherub-like demeanor on salad, is what I'm telling you.

Harris: Okay, gotcha.

Pinette: The veggies I don't mind.

Harris: Any vegetable?

Pinette: And I love the crab legs. I put them on my chest, I eat like an otter. The management gets a little unnerved, but it's fun to watch people's reactions.

Harris: I'm guessing, John, you've pulled a chair up to the buffet at some restaurants.

Pinette: You know, I'm not saying!

Harris: I did that once at a place where it was all you can eat salad and all you can eat shrimp and they put them right next to each other and not one person lined up for salad. Everybody is lined up for that shrimp bowl and they're refilling it like every forty-five seconds.

Pinette: Well, absolutely. All you can eat shrimp is just craziness.

Harris: You aren't even peeling it at some points.

Pinette: Yeah, exactly. I had an all you can eat shrimp once, it was by the pool. I was paying room service to just hold them up and I was jumping like Free Willy. I'd jump and I'd go under again. I can swim and eat shrimp. That "wait an hour before you go in" thing? Yeah, right. I can wait five minutes.

Harris: John has a new comedy CD called, Show Me the Buffet.

Pinette: No, do it like the Jerry Maguire thing, so it's, SHOW ME THE BUFFET!!

Harris: Hey, who is doing the plugs here?

Pinette: I'm sorry.

Harris: That comes out next month, and he's also nominated for stand-up of the year at the American Comedy Awards.

Pinette: I think my cherub-like demeanor helped me there.

Harris: I think so, too. Are you a classic rock fan?

Pinette: The Beatles are my favorite, but the Stones, too. I'm a big Who fan. You know, from the oldest stuff, My Generation to Quadrophenia. Who's Next is one of my favorites.

Harris: An all-time great album.

Pinette: I actually do Ethel Merman singing Baba O'Riley. You wanna hear this one?

Harris: Let me just turn the microphone down.

Pinette: Yeah, you might want to turn this down. Okay, this is a loud one. [in perfect Ethel Merman loud voice] "OUT HERE IN THE FIELDS! I FOUGHT FOR MY MEALS! I GET MY BACK INTO MY LIVING!"

Harris: [laughs]

Pinette: Ethel Merman sings, "EVER SINCE I WAS A YOUNG BOY, I PLAYED THE SILVER BALL! FROM SOHO DOWN TO BRIGHTON, I MUST HAVE PLAYED THEM ALL! I AIN'T SEEN NOTHING LIKE IT IN ANY AMUSEMENT HALL!"

Harris: [laughs]

Pinette: Ethel Merman sings The Grateful Dead!

Harris: Oh, let's hear that.

Pinette: "LIVING ON REDS, VITAMIN C, AND COCAINE! ALL THE REST CAN SAY IS AIN'T IT A SHAME! TRUCKIN!!"

Harris: Excellent!

Pinette: Thank you!

Harris: Do you do a lot of music in the act?

Pinette: I do a little bit.

Harris: Like what? Give me something else. Can you sing something else or have you shot through the vocal chords?

Pinette: Not at all, not at all. I am in voice.

Harris: All right.

Pinette: Here, let me do The Chipmunks. It's a hard one.

Harris: Do you have to channel David Seville to do this?

Pinette: Yes, exactly, Ross Bagdasarian. All right. The Chipmunks sing The Beatles. [in perfect Chipmunk voices] "Alvin? Simon? Theodore? Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you. Remember, I'll always be true. And while I'm away, I'll write home everyday, and I'll send all my loving to you."

Harris: Excellent, excellent!

[a mumbled voice from the back of the room says something, to which John responds]

Pinette: Oh, the Andrew Lloyd Webber thing? Oh, yeah, that's Chipmunk Of The Opera, but you know we're on a classic rock station

[the voice in the back of the room says something inaudibly again]

Harris: John's road manager is shouting out bits. You know, it's funny. We don't take requests on our show, but the comedian does! But only from his own staff, apparently.

Pinette: I do take requests from the audience. Yell it out, I'll do it.

Harris: Here's what I want to hear. Ethel Merman does the Oscar Meyer wiener song.

Pinette: [in perfect loud Merman voice again] "OH I WISH I WERE AN OSCAR MEYER WIENER! THAT IS WHAT I'D TRULY LIKE TO BE! AND IF I WERE AN OSCAR MEYER WIENER! EVERYONE WOULD BE IN LOVE WITH MEEEE!!"

Harris: Excellent, excellent!

Pinette: Somebody give me some oxygen. Somebody called the studio and said my Ethel Merman sounds like Gilbert Gottfried?

Harris: Yeah, somebody did call and say that.

Pinette: What did I do? [now in Gottfried's loud voice] "EVER SINCE I WAS A YOUNG BOY I PLAYED THE SILVER BALL!" I didn't do that.

Harris: You're bringing back flashbacks of when I was doing standup comedy about twenty years ago and I'd go to a place like Catch A Rising Star in New York for open mike night and Gilbert would get up and do 45 minutes and ruin the room for anybody else who got up there.

Pinette: And the back of the room thinks he is brilliant -- which I think he is, I get a kick out him -- but the other people are just horrified.

Harris: And then you bring up the next guy and they're like, "Who are you, and why are you having to following him?"

Pinette: Oh yeah. I've had some times at Catch, man.

Harris: Comedy death.

Pinette: Not fun at all.

Copyright 1998, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Sean Healey.