Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Dave Mason

June 23, 2018

Tom Netherland

Upon the stoop of rock ‘n’ roll history resides Dave Mason.

A witness to and participant in a number of seminal moments in time marked as remarkable fill Mason’s past.

Slide in alongside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member when he visits Bristol’s Paramount Center for the Arts on June 29 and 30. Anticipate an even-ing that highlights Mason’s richly varied past, including his album from 1970, “Alone Together,” performed in full.

“I’m doing ‘Alone Together,’ the whole album, which I’ve not done,” said Mason, 71. “I intersperse it throughout the show.”

Count on a selection of his hits. Primary among them, 1977’s “We Just Disa-gree.”

“People pay to hear the hits,” Mason said. “‘We Just Disagree,’ that was a really good song. I thought it was too good a song to become a hit. That song is still timeless today.”

Listen for “Feelin’ Alright.” Mason wrote it for Traffic, but scored most profoundly when Joe Cocker recorded an impassioned take of the tune in 1969.

“Luck stepped in when Cocker did it and about 50 major artists (Grand Funk Railroad, Traffic, Ohio Players, etc.) cut it,” Mason said. “It’s a two-chord song. I do it in the Cocker version as an homage. I owe him a good deal.”

Born in the aftermath of World War II in Worcester, England, Mason grew up far from the teeming city lights of London. Rock ‘n’ roll made England swing before his 10th year, which rattle and rolled even out on the farm.

“Growing up, suddenly this music came along,” Mason said. “I tell people on stage, ‘America, that’s where it all came from.’ We Brits got on it, copied it, learned it.”

Mason picked up a guitar, and thus began his rock ‘n’ roll journey. First, he fielded local bands as a teenager including The Jaguars and The Hellions.

“The Jaguars, my thing was guitar, which I was really into,” he said. “I felt like singing got in the way of playing guitar. My big influence first off were The Shadows. Then it was The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Chet Atkins. Then I taught myself to sing. That was the path.”

After working as a roadie for Steve Winwood’s Spencer Davis Group, Mason joined Winwood as a member of Traffic in 1967. Benchmark hits including “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” helped build a stairway to even-tual hall of fame status for the band.

“Traffic gave me the opportunity to be successful,” Mason said. “I decided I needed to start writing songs. My first song I wrote was our biggest hit, ‘Hole In My Shoe.’ It went to number two in England. It was great, but it also created a wedge.”

Winwood and company envisioned Traffic as a jazz-flavored rhythm and blues band with psychedelic twists. Mason embraced hook-laden songs with pop melo-dies.

“There was a clash between what they wanted to do and what I wanted to do,” he said. “I have a pop sensibility.”

So Mason went solo. Along came his album from 1970, “Alone Together,” which yielded a minor hit in America, “Only You Know and I Know.”

But let’s go back to England circa 1967, ’68 and so forth. There are those whom Mason refers to as “Jimi” and “Brian,” “Paul” and “George.” You’ve heard them; he knew them.

Swallow this. Mason played acoustic guitar and bass on Jimi Hendrix’ scin-tillatingly revolutionary cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

“I did,” Mason said. “I got to know him a little bit and hang out. At one point we were talking about me taking Noel Redding’s place on bass with him. We just happened to be at somebody’s house one afternoon. They had an advance copy of Dylan’s ‘John Wesley Harding’ album (which contained his original ‘All Along the Watchtower’).”

Hendrix loved the song, but heard something else entirely in his head.

“I found myself in the studio a few days later with Hendrix playing acous-tic guitar on ‘All Along the Watchtower,’” Mason said. “I also sang on ‘Crosstown Traffic.’ There are some great guitar players — but Hendrix was out there.”

Then there’s Mick and Keith as in Jagger and Richards of the Rolling Stones. Mason befriended the Stones’ Brian Jones, which led to his being in the studio with the Stones during the 1968 recording of their transformative “Beggars Banquet” album.

“The Stones were Brian’s group. He started them,” Mason said. “I played the bass drum on ‘Street Fighting Man.’ It was me, Brian and Charlie (Watts) playing drums. I got to play the shehnai (an Indian reed instrument) on the end of ‘Street Fighting Man.’”

Let’s not leave out the Fab Four. Mason recorded music with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He can also be heard on an alternate version of “Across the Universe” from the Beatles’ masterful “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” sessions.

“I played the lead guitar part with Paul McCartney on ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ (from 1975 with Wings),” Mason said.

Harrison played slide guitar on Mason’s “If You’ve Got Love.”

“He credited me with getting him started on that (slide guitar),” Mason said. “I played a slide guitar with Delaney and Bonnie. Well, Delaney and Bonnie played a concert in London. Eric (Clapton) was there. George was there. We were like, ‘come up and play.’ I told George, ‘Let me show you the slide part on this tune (‘Coming Home’). He said that got him started on slide.”

Folks, that’s major record spinning rock ‘n’ roll history. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 with Traffic, Mason will present his afore-mentioned life upon the lapels of rock history in Bristol at the Paramount.

“It’s what I do,” Mason said of music. “I love playing. Bottom line, it’s about sending people out of there in a better mood than when they walked in. Job done.”

Paramount Bristol