By Laura Stegman
James Taylor never ends a live performance without enthusiastically acknowledging the fine backup singers and players who join him in concert on the road. In an interview featured on "Live at the Beacon" (DVD), JT pays them tribute by saying, "It’s probably the great delight of my life to be able to play music with these people."
Of James’ nine or so "regulars" during the last few years, two have performed live with him for the longest period of time: Arnold McCuller, who captures the spotlight in concert on "I Will Follow" or "Shower the People," and David Lasley, whose "angelic" (according to JT) voice enriches harmonies on numbers ranging from the calm of "Wandering" to the frenzy of "Not Fade Away." Arnold and David began touring with JT in 1977 and have been featured on every album from "Flag" forward.
James often introduces David Lasley during concerts as "a great singer and songwriter in his own right." Obviously, JT doesn’t have time to go into the details. David is an artist whose several hundred compositions are recorded by performers as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Dusty Springfield, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, Crystal Gayle, Patti LaBelle, Rickie Lee Jones, Luther Vandross, Natalie Cole, Jermaine Jackson, Phoebe Snow, Herb Alpert, Rita Coolidge, Patti Austin, Dionne Warwick, Boy George, Al Green, the Oak Ridge Boys and others. He performs background vocals on so many recordings (hundreds) that at one time he was featured on 13 of Billboard’s top 25 songs.
David, Arnold McCuller, and James Taylor, 1977
You’ve heard him on such hits as Bonnie Raitt’s "Angel From Montgomery," "Have A Heart," "I Can’t Make You Love Me," and "Something to Talk About," Bette Midler’s "From A Distance," Sister Sledge’s "We Are Family," and Boz Scaggs’ "Jojo" (which he wrote). He backs singers and groups ranging from most of the aforementioned to Jimmy Buffett, Ringo Starr, Shawn Colvin, Cher, Joni Mitchell, Cissy Houston, Linda Ronstadt, Chic and the Ramones and has toured with, among others, Raitt, Todd Rundgren and Melissa Manchester. He was the third person — after Elton John and Donna Summer — signed to David Geffen’s Geffen Records. And he has made many recordings of his own over the years dating back to his teens, including three solo albums: "Missin’ Twenty Grand" (1982) and "Raindance" (1984 — produced by Don Was), both on EMI America, and "Soldiers on the Moon" (1990) on Agenda.
Indeed, JT’s introduction of David only begins to tell a story that started in Michigan, where David was born and raised. Music came naturally… his mother taught it and his brother, Dean, played it (tenor sax). David’s older sister, Judy (who unfortunately passed away just last November) was the sister-in-law of 60’s icon Del Shannon, from whom David caught "the performing bug," he recalls. When Dean formed a band, David, then in high school, and their younger sister, Julie, 13, were invited to sing with the group. Inspired, David, Julie and a friend started an a cappella trio called the Utopias, crafting an R&B/blue-eyed soul sound. David recorded their efforts, took the tapes to several record companies in nearby Detroit, and successfully arranged the release of three 45s on Fortune records, the first of which, "Welcome, Baby, To My Heart," became a regional hit when it debuted in 1966.
The Utopias attracted a following, performing on "Swinging Time," a local TV show, and in clubs in Detroit and across the border in Canada. Around this time, David began writing songs, the first of which — "Bye Bye Barbara" — was, he says, "really awful." Ultimately he sold his first, called "Just Give Me One Good Reason," which was recorded by one of his favorite singers, Maxine Brown, a legendary R&B artist.
In 1970, David joined the cast of Detroit’s production of the musical "Hair," and the next year, he went to Ohio to audition for "Hair’s" touring company. On March 31, 1971, as fate would have it, he not only was cast in the show but also met Arnold McCuller, who joined the "Hair" company that very same day.
After completing this tour, Arnold and David found themselves living in New York City, each with his own group; Arnold’s was called Revelation, and David named his Rosie. Signed to RCA, Rosie (which also included fellow "Hair" cast members Lana Marrano and Lynn Pitney) made two albums, "Better Late Than Never" (1976), and "Last Dance" (1977).
In addition to performing with their own groups during this time, David and Arnold often worked together on backing vocals for other artists. Some twenty years later, during A&E’s "Live By Request" program, James Taylor, attempting to remember how his collaboration with the two came about, recalled that, "we’ve been working together a long time," but then confessed that, "the beginning is lost in the misty past."
David Lasley’s memory is, apparently, sharper than JT’s. David spent several hours with me during an afternoon last December, sharing those — and other — recollections.
MEETING JAMES TAYLOR
DAVID LASLEY: In the fall of ’76, Lynn [Pitney] and Arnold and I had been called to do backing vocals for Garland Jeffries, who had a great A&M album called "Ghost Writer." There was one song that James, Arnold, Lynn and I did called "Cool Down Boy," and I remember meeting James for the first time and we were just so completely blown away. He took our phone numbers and said, "You know, I might call you one day," and we were like, "Oh sure, you know."
LAURA STEGMAN: Did you like him, did he like you, did you guys hit it off?
DL: Oh yeah, yeah, he was very sweet. Of course, we were working, we didn’t have too much hang time, but he definitely must have liked something about us ’cause he did ask for our numbers. We continued to work, of course, and never heard from him. Then Arnold and I had done "Saturday Night Live" for Brian Wilson and quite a few other people. I believe James saw us do that show with Jennifer Warnes — I think he told me that once. It was right after that Saturday that James called, so I think there was some connection. Mid-May of ’77, the phone rings and it was James Taylor…
DL: Yes, and I actually said, "Who is this?" and didn’t believe him and hung up on the person!
LS: (laughter) Oh no!
DL: Believe it or not, I did, I really did, and he called me back and said he had made this record called "JT" and he was going to need harmony singers, he felt, for the first time [on a tour]. He had remembered [Arnold and me] from the Garland Jeffries thing. We went to his house that day or maybe the next day, and I think about five days or a week later we were in Texas rehearsing to do a show, that’s how fast it happened. We did that summer tour, Arnold and I, six weeks for the promotion of the "JT" record. It was Clarence McDonald on keyboards, Russ Kunkel on drums, Lee Sklar on bass, Kootch [Danny Kortchmar] on guitar.
LS: When you first met him, were you a fan of his?
DL: I was a fan of his work, especially with Carole King, [but] I was so much more into like Joni [Mitchell] and Carole and Laura Nyro. But I was very aware of James because ironically in the Detroit "Hair" company, everybody was into "Sweet Baby James." That was like the album to be into, really, and I went in with most of the kids from the show and produced sort of a gospel version of "Fire and Rain." "Gorilla" was out by the time we met him and I just loved that record. I loved them all, "Walking Man," too, but I think "Gorilla" was like one of my five favorite albums, probably, that I was playing all the time right at the time I met him.
LS: What was he like then as opposed to now, aside from the fact that some years have gone by?
Rosie – Last Dance
D.L. Actually, unbelievably the same. I mean sweet, honest and forthright, sweet and gentle, but tough, knew what he wanted, you know, absolutely. That’s something that people shouldn’t mistake. James is the vocal arranger, he really is. James knows those parts, he tells you what to sing. James has remained consistent. I guess you’d say maturely young. He’s always been mature. I always feel like I look up to him like he’s a teacher or a musical role model. He’s a major guy, he’s JT. He was very mellow. James is mellow and kind. I remember when I got to Texas that very first tour, I was in the middle of making ["Last Dance"] with my group Rosie, and I was cramming the lead vocals trying to get them done so I could leave a few days later to go to Texas. And I was, of course, excited about working with James, and probably nervous, and I got to Dallas and woke up and had no voice, literally had no voice. That had never happened to me ever before, even in all my years of theater. I had really strained my voice. And he took me to the throat doctor, literally took me by the hand and took me to a doctor there and got me medicine. I got fixed up in time to squeak my way through the first couple of shows. But that’s the kind of person he really is. And then I think, in fact, he even paid for it.
DL and LS: (laughter)
DL: He did, I remember that distinctly, laying his Visa card down. It’s interesting, though, ’cause most people, when you have that kind of success at a young age, I mean, I’m sure they think they’ve changed wildly, especially with regard to the issues of sobriety or anything like that. And that’s, of course, one of the greatest changes, but that’s another kind of change. As far as the kind of cat he is, he’s just always been James, and that’s really the truth. He’s not especially moody. He doesn’t throw things. He’s not a prima donna. He doesn’t travel in the big jet and you go on the bus, you know, he comes on the bus with you and you all talk and you eat the same stuff. You hear of those tours where there are 27 singers crammed on a bus with the band and you’re staying at the $24 hotel and the star is on the Lear Jet in the $400-a-night suite at the Ritz-Carlton or something. James doesn’t pull those diva patrol stops, he really doesn’t.
DAVID’S YEARS AS A SOLO ARTIST
DL: I stopped touring — I did ’82, I think, that was the last year. So I didn’t do ’83 up to ’88 or ’89. I didn’t tour with him, but I continued to do the records.
LS: Was that when Rosemary Butler was singing with him?
DL: Yes. I was probably just on basic burnout from being with a publisher out here [in Los Angeles] for three and a half years and writing every day from nine ’till five in the office. Then when I wasn’t doing that, I was singing sessions and then touring.
LS: You mean you were under contract to a publisher?
DL: Yes, to deliver so many songs per year. I also signed as a solo artist after my group Rosie broke up. I was actually the third person David Geffen signed to his label to be a solo artist and he really believed in me a lot. My voice reminded him of Laura Nyro. I was in New York with James on tour and got this call out of the blue from David Geffen. I had a very quick meeting with him and he said, "Would you consider signing?" Please, would I consider that? I was, like, on the floor! I ended up leaving Geffen Records and going to EMI America where I had two records. The first one, which I produced, was very critically acclaimed, "Missin’ Twenty Grand." It was about the club in Detroit and about my sister Julie, and it was kind of the story of us growing up and listening to R&B records and singing in black nightclubs. The critics, said — I mean it’s embarrassing to read them now — I was the next Bob Dylan.
DL: It was really something to read. There was actually a hit single written by Randy Goodrum and Dave Loggins called "If I Had My Wish Tonight." Then I had a record company screaming at me, "You’ve got to follow up this critically acclaimed record," so I wrote for 17 months. I wrote 67 songs, and then we had a follow up record called "Raindance." The critics still liked it but [Los Angeles Times music critic] Robert Hilburn wrote, "So David Lasley wasn’t the next Bob Dylan." (laughs)
LS: Oh no.
DL: Which I thought was so great.
LS: OH NO!
[note from LS to JT fans: Hilburn never has anything nice to say about JT either]
DL: There was half a page in the New York Times that Steven Holden writes and it was an amazing article and he compared me to Laura Nyro big-time.
DL: But I was terrified of performing solo in a club, absolutely terrified, and I never did, in fact, until 1987. I couldn’t make myself get out on the stage and physically do it ’cause I had a horrendous fear of it. Rickie Lee Jones was a friend at the time, and she kept saying, "You’ve GOT to perform, you’ve got to go out and do it, you can’t be afraid. No matter how afraid you are, it’s not as bad as you think it is." Same with Anita Baker. She’d say, "You’ve got to start using your gift or it’s going to be taken away from you." I did break through in ’87, and it was the best night of my life. I’ll never forget it, and it was, it was really a great feeling. And it’s so ironic because I just had this urge, and I called a club and [the owner] said, "Well I don’t know. There’s this guy on the bill, I don’t know if you know him or not, but he’s got two shows. If he’ll give up one, you can do one." And I said, "What’s his name?" He said, "Arnold McCuller."
DL and LS: (laughter)
DL: And that’s really the truth! So Arnold and I did that night together, and we had to turn people away, a lot of people, over a couple hundred people. We both did great shows, and I broke through the fear. Then I did shows in ’88 and ’89 and did my last show in ’91. I’m proudest of my last recording, which is called "Soldiers on the Moon." That’s all live to two-track, which means everybody’s in the studio: the strings, the players, the singers. They’re in their booth and you all sing all at once and they print it. When it’s live to two-track with no edits and no overdubs, that means no snipping away mistakes, no re-doing something or adding to it. You get what you get, and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s a train wreck, and I lucked out on that one, "Soldiers on the Moon."
RECORDING WITH JT
LS: Let’s say you’re recording a song with JT that you don’t know. How do you learn it, what does he give you?
DL: You actually just sit right there in the room and he hums you things, and you try, and you go back and forth until you get it
LS: So you walk into the studio never having heard it before?
DL: Yes, it’s really quite interesting how it happens pretty much on the spot. We contribute some but James knows what he wants.
LS: He would say, "Sing it like this," or "Sing this melody"?
DL: Yeah, "Try this," he’d say, and he’d of course have his guitar and he’d strum a chord. He’d say, "Try this note," or "Try that note," or ‘No, I don’t like that, I like this," "Try this, try that." That’s pretty much what [other singers do], really.
LS: Will you share some memories of the recording of the JT albums you’ve sung on, from "Flag" through "Hourglass"?
DL: On "Flag," [Arnold and I] just did one cut, "Rainy Day Man," and then on "Dad Loves His Work," we really were on almost every cut that had vocals. That was done out here in the [San Fernando] Valley at Val Garay’s place. That was James, Arnold and I on harmonies. Those are for the most part standing in a booth with James playing his guitar and us singing along on different mikes. I would say our voices were more prominent on "Dad Loves His Work," because they weren’t doubled for the most part. So the high voice is David and the lower voice is Arnold on things like "Hard Times" or "Stand and Fight." In ’86, I remember James calling, having done "That’s Why I’m Here," and he wanted to change [some of the background vocals], so I took a train all the way to New York…
LS: I was going to ask you about not flying. So that’s how you get around, you take a train?
DL: Yeah I take trains and drive. So James and I stacked vocals on "That’s Why I’m Here."
LS: When you say "stacked…."
DL: Like double-track or triple track. James and I’d sing one track together and then we’d do another track and then another track, sometimes the same note, sometimes a different note. A good example on that album would be "Turn Away." That’s just James and I, three tracks of us.
LS: And when you sang that, did you sing together as it was recorded?
DL: His lead was on one track and then we stood together and did two voices, two voices and two voices. And the song "That’s Why I’m Here," that was Deniece Williams and myself and James, but Deniece did her [background vocals] out here. James and I did our harmony in New York, then they put them all together. And then on "Only One", Don [Henley] and Joni [Mitchell] sang the choruses in California and then I added harmonies with James in New York.
LS: Who are Wendy and Gloria that are referred to on "That’s Why I’m Here"?
DL: Wendy would be, I assume, Peter’s [Asher] wife. Gloria was like a co-manager, Gloria Boyce, I assume that’s Gloria.
LS: What about "Never Die Young" and "New Moon Shine"?
DL: When it came time to record "Never Die Young," it was basically Arnold and James and Rosemary. I’m only on four cuts on that album. "New Moon Shine," background vocally, I think that’s my favorite record. We did those out here. I think the vocals are incredible. The voices recorded so beautifully. It’s just my taste, the way I like it. To me it sounds a little more like "Gorilla." It’s crystalline clear, and I like the clarity and the echo and the reverbs and things. The one thing that I think is really, really fascinating and great, and I wish that James would do it on stage, is James can play piano and writes on piano sometimes.
DL: Like "Shed a Little Light" I believe he wrote on piano and "I Will Follow" I believe was written on piano. Yeah, he can play nicely, and I would love to see James go out and sit down and play piano on a song. I think people would completely be blown away.
LS: And "Hourglass"?
DL: The tracks were done on the Vineyard, the background vocals were done out here [Los Angeles].
LS: The four of you?
DL: Yes, Arnold, Kate [Markowitz], Val[erie Carter] and myself. We had sung some of the songs in concert for a couple of years. "A Little More Time With You," and "Alice," we used to call it, "It’s Enough to Be On Your Way," and I think "Ananas" we were doing before he actually put it out, but a lot of the songs were new to us and they were treats. We got those vocals done in four days, maybe less. Three or four days.
LS: Is that you and Arnold singing background on "Boatman"?
DL: And James, all three of us, really closely in sync. That was a fun one to do.
LS: So in other words, he recorded the lead, and then the three of you added the harmonies.
DL: The three of us, yes. I remember I was on this side, Arnold was in the center and James was, I believe, on the right. James might have been in the center sometimes. We moved around a little bit. We doubled that. For the rest of the album, sometimes Kate and I would go out and add a couple of melody parts [over background vocals], or sometimes it would be me and Arnold, or Valerie and Kate, or just Kate, or just me, or sometimes it’s just one little voice. Sometimes, they’re not sure what they need and sometimes they needed less, and there were too many of us. James has an overview of the sense of what he’s really trying to say in the song and what’s appropriate. It’s a treat for us, ’cause you don’t know what you’re going to get ’till it comes out and you stick it in the machine and you go, "Oh yeah, that’s cool," or "Where did that part go?" But as a background singer you learn early on that you’ve got to put your ego aside, it’s not your record. [Unlike James] there are other artists who need your total input, you know, and very much need your arrangemental skills. Boz Scaggs is like that. I used to take tapes home and make up a complete arrangement and then I’d take it in and work with the singers, go into the studio with the singers, sing it to the producer and Boz, and they’d say, "We like this, we love this, we hate this, change this, take this out," and it just sped up their job and made it a little bit easier.
TOURING WITH JT
LS: Do you sing with James Taylor more than any other singer?
DL: Arnold’s been, of anybody, the longest. Since ’77, he’s only missed I believe two years. I had the ’77 through ’82 or ’83, then stopped until 89, came back in ’90, so I don’t know how many cumulative I’ve got. It’s probably 17 years or something.
LS: What about when you go out on a tour, how do you prepare for that?
DL: A tour now can be anywhere from like four months to six and a half months. One of the years we did, I believe it was ’91, we started rehearsals in April, went out early May, and they extended the tour and we actually had Thanksgiving together in Boston or somewhere, so that was a very long tour. For most years, we rehearsed on the Vineyard. Last year we rehearsed in New York.
LS: What’s the process?
DL: Rather than beat one song into the ground, we tend to do it a few times and kind of try to get it close. You run a lot of songs, more than enough. James writes them on little cards and pieces of paper and things, and they’re usually laid on top of the grand piano, and James tries to put the songs in order in something that looks like a set list that will make sense. And then we try it that way, and then he’ll maybe change some songs around, rearrange an order. And before you know it, it kind of falls into place and you have a show. For me, I’m definitely a tape person, and I go home and study it like I’m studying for the test. I like to write everything down and make marks, and little by little, I dispose of the notes. Once in a while, I’ll cheat, very rarely. "Jump Up," I needed to cheat on that with a little card, because for some reason the opening line always threw me, "fun" and "run" would confuse me. And when we were doing "Promised Land," there are a lot of words in that song. Lots, like lots, like a board this big, both sides, and they all ran together. They’re really fun to do but like [singing] right away I bought me a through train ticket da da, something, da da da, da, da da, something, I can’t even do it, Albuquerque, downtown Birmingham, Albuquerque, New Orleans, what town do I go to next?
DL and LS: (laughter)
LS: Does the order ever change when you play one night in one place and one night in another?
DL: No, it’s usually the same. In fact, most performers will, if they’re hoarse or something, they’ll just pull out four songs anywhere. James isn’t like that. James very much sticks to the set. He usually wouldn’t take a song out without putting something else in its place. The one thing he might do is if we get rain, he will take the two acts and combine them and make it one long show with no intermission and maybe take out one or two songs, but either way you’re going to get, usually, anywhere between 25 and 28 songs.
LS: Do you have a couple of favorite James Taylor songs, not necessarily that you’ve sung on, but just over the years?
DL: Absolutely, if I were to record — well I did record one, actually, on "Missin’ Twenty Grand," "Looking for Love on Broadway." But my absolute favorites are "Walking Man" and my most favorite is from the Apple album, called "Brighten Your Night with My Day." And pretty much everything off of "Gorilla," just kills me.
LS: What was your favorite song from the last tour?
DL: The saddest one was "Daddy’s All Gone," because James dedicated it to Carlos Vega, but I think the one I enjoyed the most actually was "Jump Up." Those two just happened to be Arnold and I, but there were other years that I loved things where just Val and I would sing something, or Kate and I would sing something.
LS: Like what?
DL: There was a funny song that Val and I would do about doggies. I’m gonna say "Old Paint," but that’s not right. It’s a song about — oh lord — it’s about a donkey (laughs). It’s hard to remember, but it was really fun. And then Kate and I did "Hey Mister That’s Me Up on the Jukebox." Also "Long Ago and Far Away" is one I enjoy singing like probably just about the most. It just sits in a place in my voice and in everybody’s voice and his voice, such a beautiful thing, you know?
LS: During "Live by Request," were you all prepared to sing any song anybody requested?
DL: Gee, you know, we really were. We had rehearsed a lot. I think there might have been certain choices, you know, but no one really knew what the exact songs were. We might have known what we weren’t going to do because we hadn’t done it in a long time. But there’s certain ones you figure you pretty much have to do. That’s, I think, one of the problems as you have more and more records, more and more hits and more and more famous songs. If you’re doing cities that you’ve done each year, you can vary your set list, but if you happen to get a city where you’re playing for audiences that haven’t seen you ever or maybe not in seven years, they want to hear the hits. So those are instances where James would insert something because he knows they want to hear something, basically "Handyman" AND "Everyday." And "Never Die Young," which is also one of my favorite songs, by the way. Now that I think about it, that’s my favorite song to sing live.
LS: I noticed in a couple of JT concert tapes that every so often you kind of go like this [playing a guitar]. Do you play the guitar?
DL: No, not at all, no, just the piano. That’s my Kootch imitation.
DL and LS: (laughter)
LS: And when you tour, there’s one bus?
DL: There’s a musician’s bus and a singer’s bus and a crew bus.
LS: Like Clifford Carter would be on one bus and you would be on another bus?
DL: Right, exactly.
LS: And where would James be?
DL: James is a singer so he would go on the singer’s bus. We have bunks.
LS: Private bunks or is it like a slumber party?
DL: No no, it’s like a submarine.
LS: Oh (laughing).
DL: There’s bunks on either side and they have a little curtain that closes, and they actually are fairly comfortable.
LS: What’s the worst thing about the road?
DL: The scariest, I think, is once in a while, you’ll be, say, in Birmingham, and maybe you’ll go to a movie or you’ll be shopping and it’ll be like ten to four and you’re going, "Oh my God, is it a day off?" or you’ll be in the middle of a movie and you’ll say, "Oh is it a day off, or is there a show today?" and you really actually forget. So you have a call sheet each day, and I usually tear it off and stick it in my back pocket so I always know in case I panic. There have been times when I’ve had to say to somebody, "Is it Friday or Thursday?" ‘Cause it’s five, four, three months into the thing. Of course, you get a break in the middle. You usually have like ten days off if it’s a real long one. It’s tiring, though. It’s amazing to think that James does that kind of a show where he sings so much and so hard and he’s always in such good voice. It’s rare to hear him be in bad voice or even reach for a note.
I always laugh when I say, "Well I think I’ve been on the road too long" when I can look out the window and I can know by the skyline where we are. You know, I don’t even know by the tour book, I don’t even look anymore. Honestly, I know what Pittsburgh looks like, I know what’s Buffalo, I know Buffalo from Syracuse, I know Rochester from Syracuse. It’s a trip to be turning a corner and you feel like, oh, we’re turning the corner before the hotel in Memphis. You say, wow, we’ve been on the road too long, haven’t we, when you know by the sound of the streets, like in Philly in the bus you get the vibrations. You say, OK, we’re on that brick street, that’s the street before the hotel, and pretty soon he’s going to pull up and go squeak and the final brake and the luggage door will open and, you know, wow, we’re here, thank God!
LS: Do you all hang out with each other on the road when you’re not performing?
DL: Well, you know, we’re on the same bus, first of all, so we always know we’re going to see each other, and we get "visit time" on the bus on the way to the venue and of course at sound check, and the show. We hang but not like… the thing is there really isn’t a lot of free time. But we’re all really close and I think that’s the sweet part of it. I mean, of course, there’s definitely days when… but everybody’s very understanding if you’re having a bad day. And, you know, the truth is there aren’t very many bad days. That must be something to be said for James. I mean there are sad days, you know, there are anniversaries of when you lost somebody — like during the ’97 tour, I lost my mom, or this year [’98] when my sister Judy died, and of course, we thought about Carlos Vega. And you have your times when you think of Don [Grolnick] or it can be anything.
ON THE SUBJECT OF BROWN PANTS AND BLUE SHIRTS… AND LAUNDRY
LS: When you dress on the stage, not you specifically, but all the singers, does someone tell you what to wear?
DL: We have a wardrobe trunk and we bring a lot of things, meaning maybe six or eight things. We tend to stick to black a lot. James would never tell you what to wear. Even if he hated something, he probably wouldn’t tell you. He might, actually, not love something, like I had these print pants, and every so often, he’d make a funny reference during a show to my "pajamas," but he’d never tell me not to wear them.
LS: James seems to wear the same outfit at every concert (laughs). Does he always wear that blue shirt and the brown pants?
DL: Actually it seems like that but really he has various shades. He doesn’t change, you know, an amazing amount but he’ll have like a gray-blue and a blue and a gray and he’ll have maybe different colors of khakis, or if he likes something, he’ll buy like more than one pair or he’ll have a gray khaki or a light khaki and a dark khaki.
LS: So it just looks the same.
DL: Yeah, it kind of seems that way but actually, in fact, he’s a big launderer.
LS: (big laugh) He does his own?
DL: They all like to go to the venue and do their laundry, ’cause they work out a lot and they’ve always got aerobic clothes and things.
LS: Do you have any observations about James’ fans over the years?
DL: I know it’s a cliché at this point but the age range is literally from 3-1/2 years old to 78 or 98, and it’s pretty multi-cultural, more multi-racial, or whatever. It hasn’t always been that, but this year there’s a big mix of age and race, more than there really was before. It’s an interesting thing. I think it’s something about his music. Maybe we won’t know or understand for ten years, or twenty years even, the impact it had when you hear "You’ve Got a Friend." I mean, it doesn’t matter what’s on the radio now, it doesn’t matter who’s number one. When that song’s on, it’s timeless.
LS: What are your plans for another CD of your own?
DL: Many people in Japan have wanted to put out my two EMI records on CD. And then there’s the Laura Nyro project which is half done, "David Lasley Sings Laura Nyro." And I’ve been trying for a retrospective going from ’66 up to my record from ’90, plus demos I’ve written recently and then a couple new songs I wanted to cut. I would like it to be my favorite choices of things that I’ve sung over the years. Some of them might be really awful and scratchy, you know, demos of things, but it would be fun.
LS: In closing, I’ll just say that you’ve had quite an impressive career.
DL: It’s amazing when I look at my resume. Growing up listening to many of the people I’ve worked with, being a kid, loving them, worshipping them, then becoming a singer/songwriter and having songs recorded by them and singing background for them… you know, it’s just….
LS: … amazing!
Laura Stegman is a writer and public relations consultant in Los Angeles. Thanks to Hugh Stegman for scanning the images and special thanks to David Lasley for providing all the images and sounds.