Dwayne Ford Interview
During my research of the recording sessions of Toto I discovered an album by Dwayne Ford – “Needless Freaking”. I contacted Dwayne to do an interview a couple of weeks ago. He agreed and we began by talking about his book: “Rock This Kitchen”. It tells stories about his solo works, the friendship with David Foster, the band Bearfoot and personal stories, not to mention his great recipes. It can be found on Amazon (Kindle), iTunes and other online book vendors. (See the end of the page for information on how to order this book)
I was also interested in his earlier works with Bearfoot. Unfortunately these albums are hard to find, but I finally managed to locate a copy of “Atkinson, Danko & Ford”.
Hugh Brockie (guitar) and Dwayne Ford (piano), both from Edmonton, were originally part of Ronnie Hawkins’ Rock And Roll Revival And Travelling Medicine Show. One night while playing the upstairs lounge of the Graham Bell Hotel in Brantford, Ontario Hawkins spotted two other hotshot musicians in the group “Tin Pan Alley” downstairs – Terry Danko (brother of The Band’s Rick Danko) and Jim Atkinson – and a new band was born.
Hawkins, like he had done with so many versions of “The Hawks” like “The Band” and “Crowbar” before them, taught the guys the ropes about professional showmanship and playing abilities. But eventually like “The Hawks”, this group of musicians decided that Hawkins’ straight-ahead rock and roll was creatively stifling so they left to form “Atkinson, Danko, and Ford” (with the addendum of ‘Brockie & Hilton’). The act soon signed to Columbia Records and their 1972 debut LP spawned the single “Right On”. Drummer Brian Hilton would leave to join David Foster’s band Skylark so “Atkinson Danko and Ford” added Mal Turner on drums but felt their moniker sounded more like a law firm than a musical group and changed it to Bearfoot who continued recording well into the mid-70s on Columbia/CBS. (source)
The second album I found is Bearfoot – Friends With…
“Bearfoot” released three albums and five singles through the label. Their first, 1972 album was released under the name “Atkinson, Danko and Ford (with Brockie and Hilton)”. Danko and Atkinson left in 1973 to pursue work as musicians in California. In 1974 Bearfoot (now a different band altogether) was nominated for the 1974 Juno Awards “Most Promising Group of the Year”, which “Bachman-Turner Overdrive” would win.
The group continued to evolve with players coming and going, releasing their final album in 1975 as “Dwayne Ford and Bearfoot”. Danko and Atkinson returned to Canada in 1985 and reformed the band for a time with Jerry Baird. The group is now presumably defunct. . (source)
It’s a shame that these albums aren’t available on CD.
Dwayne commented: Those records are impossible to find. Sony, which bought Columbia Records a few years ago, have not re-released them and in fact, they claim they cannot find the masters. Rather a poor performance from a company that claims to be the best in the world. They have refused to return them to me. I have some old copies of Bearfoot but I can’t give them away. They are the only ones I have. Bearfoot was started by me, Jim Atkinson and Terry Danko. Our band was called “Atkinson, Danko and Ford”. Later, Hugh Brockie and Brian Hilton joined our band which then became Bearfoot. There have been several versions of Bearfoot. The only constant was me. After the last Bearfoot broke up, Jim Atkinson and Terry Danko revived the name and played gigs using the name Bearfoot but it was never the same after we broke up.
You might want to add Malcolm Tomlinson, Gary Holt, Marty Cordray, and Chris Vickery to the lineup. All these guys were part of Bearfoot after the original band with Jim and Terry broke up. Malcolm, Gary and Chris all performed on the album “Passing Time”. Marty was our drummer for quite a while and toured with us. Malcolm Tomlinson was a great drummer and terrific singer. He is performing on the song “Passing Time” in the choruses. He is singing the high harmonies and is really responsible in part for making that song popular.
If you read the liner notes on “Passing Time” you will find a long list of both Canadian first call session guys and some of Nashville’s best.
Here is the complete list:
Hugh Brockie, Jim Atkinson, Danny McBride, Gary Holt, Prakash John, Chris Vickery, Dwayne Ford, Bob Gallo (Producer), Bruce Pennycook (horns), Dave McMurdow (horns), Malcolm Tomlinson (Vocals and drums), Whitey Glan (Drums), Larry London (Drums), Rick Capreol (audio engineer), Gary Gray (audio engineer), Sy Potma (assistant engineer), Julian Rice (Album cover design). Recorded at Manta Sound in Toronto.
In 1981 Dwayne Ford started to record his first solo album Needless Freaking. A great (classic) westcoast album.
This is an excerpt from his book that can be bought on Amazon: In the early 1980’s, I began production on my album, “Needless Freaking”. I had phoned David to ask if he could help and to my great delight he agreed. I arrived at his home near Topanga Canyon just outside of Hollywood and we got to work, writing out charts, checking arrangements, discussing instrumentation and genres and generally mapping out the project. I didn’t ask him to write the charts, he just did. Then, strangely, he complained to me that he didn’t ‘dig’ having to do it. I suggested that he stop and that I would do them, but he continued anyway, and I didn’t hear anything else about it.
On the morning of the first recording session, David was on the phone, lining up the players and the studio. Jeff Porcaro, Mike Porcaro, Steve Lukather, (all from the band TOTO) Jay Graydon, Neil Stubenhous, every one of them top players and first call recording musicians. David had one of those phones with several lines, and a hold button. He had all the musicians on the line at the same time while he lined up the studio, all the numbers dialed with impressive speed from memory. He didn’t use one finger to dial. He used all four fingers at lightening speed like he was playing the piano. Within 3 or 4 minutes the whole deal was done. It was like watching a movie on fast-forward, and as if I didn’t have enough already, it gave me another level of respect for the man’s abilities.
The sessions went as you might expect. One or two takes and it was done. I was more than happy; I was filled with visions of greatness and knew it was just a matter of time before I would be a member of the rich and famous club. Then it struck. (Used by permission)
What does the title Needless Freaking mean? What is the story behind the title?
Needless Freaking refers to worrying about the inevitable. The album cover shows a guy (me) in the bathtub with a lamp falling into the water. Too late to worry.
What was your first impression to see the session players in the studio?
This wasn’t my first rodeo. I had been recording for years and this was in fact my 6th Album and possibly my 250th recording session. However, it was a thrill to play with these guys because they were famous and they could really play. To work with guys of this caliber was indeed thrilling.
The song “Lovin’ And Losin’ You”, correct me if I am wrong, but I recognize Jeff’s groove on that track?
Absolutely. I was going through that song on a Fender Rhodes piano in the Studio (Sunset Sound in Hollywood) and I had the earphones on. Suddenly, I hear the drums come in with a perfectly wonderful groove. I looked up and there was Jeff, pounding away with a huge grin on his face. It was very cool.
Jeff’s passing was a big deal in the Hollywood session scene and I’m sure his brothers and Steve Lukather for that matter were absolutely devastated. Yes, we lost a great drummer. I am so fortunate to have worked with those guys. I love to brag about it.
I must not forget Mike Baird and Barry Keane, the other drummers on your album. I wonder how the drummers are chosen for the tracks?
Jeff was David and my first choice but all the other guys were also first call session guys and they did not disappoint. It was in some cases a matter of availability.
“Am I Ever Gonna Find Your Love”, that is one great guitar solo. This is also recorded in one or two takes?
I believe it was the first take but it might have been the second one. I can’t remember for sure. There is about 3 minutes of Lukather just wailing away on the master tapes that we couldn’t use. Interesting to listen to.
Steve got pretty loose on “Midnight Ride” and “The Best Will Survive”. These are fun tracks. Can you tell more about recording these songs?
There isn’t much to tell, really. Pretty standard recording procedure. The players ran the down the song a couple of times and then the engineer pressed the record button. These guys do this kind of thing day in and day out. It wasn’t a stretch for any of them. Steve Lukather loves to play guitar and we just let him run loose for a while, knowing that there would be some gems that we might be able to use.
I recognize the sound of Steve’s Gibson guitar, I know it was a long time ago, maybe you remember? (I sent a clip of Steve playing the Gibson)
I don’t remember what guitars Steve used. It could very well have been the Gibson – it sounds familiar. The real trick to his signature sound, besides his innate talent and the choice of guitars was his astounding amp set-up. It was extremely loud. I think it was a stack of Marshalls all hooked up together and microphones being placed judiciously.
In the article you mention: I was filled with visions of greatness and knew it was just a matter of time before I would be a member of the rich and famous club. Then it struck. What happened after the release of the album?
What struck me was the flu from hell. It’s in the book. Pretty cool story because David Foster became Dr. Foster for a couple of days, managing my fever and nursing me back to health. It’s supposed to be a funny chapter because during my illness I answered a phone call from B.J. Foster (David’s ex wife) at David’s house while I was still delirious and the results were pretty funny.
In my collection “Needless Freaking” is a true classic for me. Looking back to 1981 when it was recorded how do you feel about those days?
I look back with nostalgia of course because I really thought that if I was ever going to have a shot at stardom, then “Needless Freaking” was it. But unfortunately, David Foster never supported the album because he did not have complete creative control over it. I did and he did not want his name on any album, especially as co-producer unless he was responsible for everything. I understand that now but as I’ve said before, if he had decided to support the album I would very likely be living in vastly different circumstances. It’s just one of those forks in the road you take and you end up somewhere quite different than if you had taken the other road.
I just bought and listened to “On The Other Side” from 2009. I prefer buying CD’s or LP’s, because they contain more information about the session players, maybe you can tell who is playing on this album? Especially who is playing the guitar on “Rio Stat”?
You must have bought the download version because CD Baby sells those CD’s and they contain lyrics and credits. The guitar player is me but I am using guitar samples and playing it from a keyboard.
This isn’t a question but maybe you can comment about this statement: ‘The more I listen to “Bearfoot”, they somehow remind me of “The Band” and “Little Feat”.’
I can’t comment on that other to say that both “The Band and “Little Feat” were very influential bands during that time and we probably absorbed some of it.
I am following you also on Linkedin and you have made some comments about the music industry. What changed the music industry that it has come to the point it is right now? What happened to the session days from the 70’s and 80’s in your opinion? Music libraries have changed and perhaps destroyed the part of the music business that was responsible for providing a decent living to a lot of composers. This is merely an example of corporate greed in action, something that Americans are oddly proud of. It’s baffling to me. I write for music libraries now so I know how this works. It’s a very, very unfortunate twist in an industry that had seen quite a lot of success in the past. Of course, digital media is also responsible for the decline and disarray in the music business. The entitlement attitude of an entire generation of music consumers also adds to the misery. Kids grow up now thinking that music and the ability to have and listen to anything you want without ever paying for it is a birthright. That is a sad bunch of kids. If they only knew the truth.
Check his website for more music (clips):
Most albums are also available at reverbnation.
Dwayne Ford Interview 2014
Jan Lücker on Facebook
January 1, 2015 @ 23:09
Dwayne just helped me to change the interview/article a bit. This is version 2.0
Paulo Simões on Facebook
January 4, 2015 @ 12:39
Japanese CD credits.
Jan Lücker on Facebook
January 4, 2015 @ 12:48
Thanks. I will post the album next week.
Frédéric Huybens on Facebook
January 5, 2015 @ 16:41