By Dawayne Bailey
My name is Dawayne Bailey. I have been a pro guitarist/singer/writer my whole life and I’ve toured and recorded with such artists as Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, CHICAGO (the band, not the Broadway show), French music legend Veronique Sanson, Stuart Hamm, Jimmy Carl Black and many others that you can read about at http://www.dawaynebailey.com The following is a rough draft of my time (so far) as not only a Zappa fan, but as a participant in the far-reaching effects of his influence on millions of lives. And his ever-weaving influence throughout my own life, art and career.
My first time to see FZ was at Cowtown Ballroom in 1970 or ’71 in Kansas City with Flo & Eddie. I grew up with Kerry Livgren of Kansas and http://www.protokaw.com and Kerry was there that same night. Kerry walked up to FZ and gave him a tape of Kansas. This was the original Kansas that played Zappa cover songs, as well as their own original material. These are the songs that were on the tape that Kerry gave Zappa: http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/protokaw.htmlIt was a great show, as usual.
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My second Zappa show was in early December 1972 in Wichita, Ks at Century II convention center. Steely Dan was the opener. FZ was walking with a serious limp after being in the hospital for many months – he was pushed from a stage in London to a concrete floor by a demented fan. I got in free to the show because a trumpet player friend of mine knew Earl Dumler, the woodwind player in the Grand Wazoo band that night. Earl is originally from Russell, KS – home of Bob Dole.
After the show, FZ, my friend, me and a bunch of folks went out to a club where an all black band was funking out. I remember seeing FZ walking up to the band and talking to the lead singer. Later, FZ slow danced with this really tall “hooker” looking lass. After we left there, we all ended up at a small club called Ceaser’s Palace – where all the Wazoo band members, including guitarist Tony Duran, were onstage. All the horn players were there jamming with the house band. That’s the night FZ met Wichita harmonica player, Craig Twister Steward, who FZ later hired to play on several CDs. I got to witness the whole evening and FZ finally got up and sat in, sitting on a stool to play guitar. They played a long shuffle.The next day, befor they left Wichita to head to Kansas City to play Cowtown Ballroom, Earl Dumler drove me out to a K-Mart, where he purchased a copy of Grand Wazoo for me and autographed it. I was just a kid, so the evening was quite the mind blower.
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My 3rd time of seeing FZ live was in 1975 in Kansas City at (I think) Memorial Hall. Frank was dressed in all white, with a white fringe top thingie. They did a lot of choreography during the show, which was an odd sight to see FZ prancing about. A friend of mine from Corpus Christi/Austin named Coy Featherston got a gig with FZ around that time – running stage lighting.
♪ ♫♪ ♫My next FZ show was in Wichita at Henry Levitt Arena in April 1980. Craig Steward sat in with them that night. Dave Logeman was the drummer. Before the show, we got to hang with FZ in his dressing room, thanks to Craig Steward. By this time, Craig and I had been in several bands together. We also share the same birthday – October 3rd. So thanks to Craig we got to ask FZ lots of questions about the Ayatollah, the origins of the FZ toilet poster, the gold guitar strings on his Les Paul Custom, etc….After the show, we went to pick up Ray White and Ike Willis at their hotel room. We hung out with them there and then all went to Craig’s home and sat around talking all night.♪ ♫♪ ♫
Before I left Wichita in Sept 1980 to move to LA, I got Jimmy Carl Black’s phone number in Albuquerque. I called him at work, where he worked in a record store called Sound Warehouse. I asked him if he would autograph all of my Mothers albums when I drove through Albuquerque. He said he would, if in exchange, I would write him a song for his new album. I wrote it all on the way there as I drove my moving truck. He liked it, signed my albums – and later recorded the song on the A side of a rare 45 called Albuquerque Bound.
It was not about my trip there – it was about Jimmy’s move there from LA. One of the verses is about how Jimmy was sick of LA and goes like this: “Life in the city, can drive a man to drink – it don’t smell pretty but who said it had to stink”. Jimmy and I have since written many songs together – he writes the words and I write the music – all usually about his Cherokee heritage. They’ve been on his solo albums and some Grandmothers as well. You can hear one called Chief Old Fox, with me doing all the vocals, guitars, etc at http://www.dawaynebailey.com You can also read where Jimmy mentions the song here: http://jimmycarlblack.com/dframebio.htm
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In 1981, Jimmy invited me to a house he was staying at in the Hollywood Hills. Later that night, he and The Grandmothers were playing a show at The Roxy in Hollywood.
Earlier that day, Jimmy had been up at FZ’s house where FZ had recorded a new song called Falling In Love Is A Stupid Habit for Jimmy on a little ghetto blaster.
When Jimmy got back to his house, he let me make a copy from his master copy. I still have that tape too. It’s a simple recording of FZ sitting at his Bosendorfer grand piano, singing it into the mic of a boom box.
Later that same year, Craig Steward took me up to Franks’s house on Woodrow Wilson in Laurel Canyon – Hollywood Hills. I got to hang with Frank that night, as he and (I think) Bob Stone were mixing a live version of Florentine Pogen.
I asked FZ if I could go out the studio area and look around. He said “Sure, fine….just don’t step on anything!”I went out and sniffed around at everything – the underground drum booth, the grand piano (played it for a bit too), checked out elaborate Zappa orchestral scores sitting there by the piano, saw a cover of an Italian music magazine with FZ on the cover – wearing a gold dress, his hair in barettes – tied back, with makeup on , holding a lit cigarett up to the mouth of a Barbie doll.I thought it was funny and told Frank so. Craig and the engineer wanted to see it, so we all walked out into the studio and FZ showed it to them.As we were standing there, I saw FZ’s newly designed signature Frank Zappa series Fender Strat, sitting on a guitar stand.
I asked FZ about it and he said “Well pick it up and play it!”
I bent down to play it, since there was no strap or pick. FZ bent down right beside me to listen to me play. I was nervous and too nervous to ask for a guitar pick.
I played Zappa tunes all the time and had been working on my own version of Twenty Small Cigars, so that’s what I played for Frank. Nothing was really said after I played, so I sat the guitar back down and we walked into the engineer booth and talked some more – then Craig and I left.
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I also saw part of a Zappa show in late 1981 at the Santa Monica Civi Auditorium -the same night Lisa Popeil sat in with them to do Teeage Prostitute. I had to leave early because I had a gig to play that was an hour’s drive away.
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Also in 1981, I met a composer from Switzerland named Steff Signer. He was very Zappa-influenced. He came to the USA and stayed at my house. We went over to Don Preston’s house and hung out all night talking and playing.A few years later, back in Switzerland, Steff recorded an album with Craig Steward, with songs on it that mentioned my name, as well as Jimmy Carl Black. Pretty rare and funny too.♪ ♫♪ ♫Also in 1981, I had finally found the ultra rare 45 by Ron Roman called Love Of My Life. One night, Gerald Fialka took me to a Zappa rehearsal at Zoetrope Studio in Hollywood.
During a break, I walked up to Frank with a copy of the 45 and asked FZ to give me the details/background on this rare little sucker. He told me all the details and I sent the story to a Zappa fan mag called Mother People and they published it a few months later.
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My name is also in the ‘thank you’ credits for the 1981/82 Rhino published Zappalog – for helping the German author with lots of info about my specialty at the time – rare FZ/Mothers 45s. That FZ 45 expertise of mine was told to the head of Rhino, Harold Bronson, who called me personally at home to ask me to provide my extremely clean 45s of some of the DONNA label stuff because they couldn’t find the original master tapes.
Harold had me take my 45s to a recording studio in Redondo Beach, CA and there, they recorded my 45s onto tape – and that tape resulted in an album released later on Rhino records called Rare Meat.The original cover looked just like the cover for Overnite Sensation, which bugged me. I called Harold and told him to please not put my name in the credits for providing the 45s. He asked why and I told him that I had a gut feeling FZ would sue them over this EP.Sure enough, FZ threatend to sue if they didn’t change the cover to a not-so-FZ-looking cover – they changed the cover – and I didn’t have to sweat that FZ might have found out I was involved in that EP. I’d sure like the credit now though.***
In 1982, a Zappa employee named Gerald Fialka, was also my manager.
Gerald financed my first solo record called The Captain Beefheart Ceremonial Shuffle. I hired Craig Steward to play harmonica. Craig and I are also pictured on the front cover that you can see here: http://www.beefheart.com/datharp/albums/related/dawaynebailey.htm
You’ll notice the A side is called Revenge Of The Nurds. I did not take this title from the movie. I had never heard of this movie because it didn’t even come out until 1984 or 85. My record was written and released in 1982.
A guy named Rip Rense did a story about the 45 in an LA newspaper called The LA Herald Examiner, which also ran the cover photo. I figured some movie studio writer or producer saw this and got an idea for a movie – it certainly wasn’t the other way around.
The engineer of my Nurds 45, Hil Bren Swimmer, was also working for Bob Seger as an engineer at Rumbo Recorders in Canoga Park, CA. (a studio owned by the Captain & Tenille) in late 1982. He called me to see if I wanted to answer phones at the studio that day for some spare pocket change.
I did it and got to meet Seger’s producer, Jimmy Iovine, at the studio.
A few weeks later, Hil Swimmer called me and asked if I’d like to audition for the lead guitar spot with Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. I asked if the audition was in a couple of weeks. Hil said it was in a couple of months.
I figured they would find someone by then, so I blew it off and never learned his songs. I was too busy collecting Zappa records anyway to go buy Seger records that I would rarely listen to.
Sure enough, 2 months later, Hil called and told me Seger’s office was going to call me in 5 minutes and he asked if I’d ever learned the songs. I told him no and he advised me to just do my best.
They called me, they flew me to Detroit, I got the gig and toured and recorded with them for the next 3 years.
Right around that same time, Jimmy Carl Black had called me to ask if I would be interested in doing a European tour with The Grandmothers, but I had already comitted to the Seger gig. I did receive a tape of the Grannies performing a song I wrote with Jimmy called The Great White Buffalo, with Mike Miller on guitar.
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My next Zappa show was in July 1984 at The Palace when FZ played a week long stint there in Hollywood. The night I went, George Duke, Johnny Guitar Watson and a few other stars sat in with FZ. This was my very last FZ show.♪ ♫♪ ♫In 1985, right after I had recorded a song with Bob Seger called “Like A Rock” (later used as a Chevy truck television commercial), I started a band called Private Parts – named after a song on Steve Vai’s Flexible album called Bill’s Private Parts.I was back living in Wichita at this time. In 1986, we recorded a CD in LA called Dancing The Marmara, which features our version of FZ’s My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama.
Also, in 1986 we changed drummers. Our new drummer was fellow Wichita native – Aaron Brown, who is also an amazing painter/artist.
The very same Aaron Brown who has painted so many amazing Steve Vai album/CD covers like The Ultra Zone, Flexible, Flexible Leftovers, Passion & Warfare and lots of Vai guitar books.
Private Parts broke up when I was offered to join the band CHICAGO in July 1986 and I moved back to LA.
In 1993, CHICAGO and I recorded an album that Warner Brothers refused to release. I wrote and sing lead on the title track called Stone Of Sisyphus.
The album was produced by ex-Zappa keyboardist Peter Wolf. Peter also played lots of keyboards and helped write and arrange. It’s still unreleased to this day, but my song, SOS, was recently released by Rhino Records on the new CHICAGO boxset.
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The very last time I saw Zappa alive was in 1987, at the Wiltern Theater in LA. FZ was in the audience as a fan himself, as was I, for a concert by The Bulgarian Women’s Choir.
Later that same year, FZ was rehearsing for his final 1988 tour in Dec. 1987. One of his roadies was also a roadie for CHICAGO.
In 1988, that roadie knew I was a serious Zappa fan and gave me a soundboard tape from a Dec 23, 1987 FZ rehearsal.
In 2004, I finally dug that tape out and shared it with the international Zappa fan community.
There’s lots more to tell, but this has gone on way too long.
By the way, one of my dear musician friends, also from Wichita (by way of his home in Beirut, Lebanon) is now guitarist for Mike Keneally – Rick Musallam.
And seeing many shows by Dweezil & Z, and lots of ex-FZ employees….
It’s a very small Zappa world out there….