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Yale Brothers Podcast

Leon Russell by Thomas Copi

My piano playing is a conglomeration of ADHD, trial-and-error and muddling through. Somebody taught me a few tricks years ago. I tried to be a music major at Los Angeles City College – but the chair of the piano department at the time, the late Dr. George Hollis, told me to my face that I had learned so many bad fingering habits that it would have been harder to try to teach me the right way.

That sucked. But at least I knew.

I run out of fingers…

Somehow, though, I believe there is still time to unlearn some of the ridiculous things I do at the keyboard. After all, I’m still alive.

But the better question is this: Will I ever do that?

That remains to be seen.

That somebody who taught me a few tricks was a guy named Gordon Mogden. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t play any better than I did as a teenager.

I am trying to find out if he’s still alive.

Mogden via Twitter

Gordon was an interesting man. My brother and I met him because we were pals with his girlfriend’s son. Eileen, aka L.E., stayed at the Magic Hotel in Hollywood with her son, Jeffrey in the late 1970s. L.E. worked at Wally Heider Recording, at that time one of the most renowned recording studios in Hollywood.

After hanging out with Jeffrey and getting to know L.E., we eventually met Gordon – a big, friendly guy whom we found out worked for Leon Russell at Russell’s recording complex, Paradise Studios.

Apparently, Gordon led a life immersed in music. I know he was an audio engineer. Perhaps he was also a roadie. His mantra was “more of everything,” – and when he said that to my brother and me, we knew what he meant. Hell, we were like 14, and were longing for entrée into the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Gordon and L.E. were kind to us – and we became fast friends with Jeffrey, who was a couple of years younger than we were. I remember a Wally Heider company trip to Disneyland on a bus with young music workers and their families – or their squeezes. That was fun, although I remember feeling a bit of social anxiety. Thank God I had Jeffrey and Chris to run around with.

The seventies, man. Think for a minute about a bus trip with music types to “The Happiest Place on Earth” at that time, and let that sink in.

But what does any of this have to do with my piano playing…?

Gordon was a monster piano player. I once heard and watched him play Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” and was blown away.

But this was after he changed my life…

One evening, Gordon invited us to tag along with L.E. for a visit to Paradise Studios. I must admit I had no idea at the time who the hell Leon Russell was, but a visit with the grownups to a recording studio was something we always down for. Plus, it felt cool to be included. I don’t know if Jeffrey came with us, but L.E. was a single mom, so he likely did.

Paradise Studios was a compound on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank. More than simply a recording studio, the facility also featured a sound stage and accommodations for visiting musicians – like a small motel building. There was also a remote recording rig on the grounds.

The place was rarefied air, and we knew it.

Gordon showed us around for a bit, and then invited us to play on the stage. There was a drum kit set up as well as a Yamaha CP-80, the kind that Elton John played much of the time back then.

What? It’s OK for us to play up there? Sure!

My brother and I played a couple of songs up there, with sound booming up through the metal grating that served as the stage platform. Our nascent music never sounded better. To this day, I feel like Gordon did us a huge solid by allowing us up there. It’s something that I feel bolstered our self-confidence and gave us hope. Everybody needs that.

Did I mention that we met Leon Russell and his wife that night? We did, as he was heading into another part of his compound. I knew he was important, but I didn’t realize how important he was at the time. The fact that Elton John found him intimidating was something I only recently found out – and there’s another blog post to be written about Leon’s influence on Elton and how Elton later saved Leon’s career.

The man himself was soft-spoken. When I shook his hand, it was the classic “limp fish” handshake. I’ll never forget that.

Somehow, Chris and I found ourselves sitting in the control room with Gordon, L.E., Leon, his wife and a couple of others as they listened to a playback of a song called “Back to the Island.” Why we were listening to that track I have no idea. It’s from a 1975 album called Will O’ the Wisp. Was he remastering it for some reason?

To this day, I don’t know why we were able to be there for that. Gordon must have thought a lot of us.

He must have also thought that I needed a leg-up when it came to my piano playing, which at that point was stilted and not-so-hot. It was more utilitarian than anything else – something I could sing to with my brother as we wrote songs and learned covers.

Gordon told me that he would show me a couple of things, and I arranged to meet him at Paradise for a few one-on-ones…

I remember boogie-woogie lessons at the Roger Williams Piano School in Miami when I was like 8 – you know, a walking bass in the left hand and one-four-five pattern on top – but Gordon showed me the most important thing I had learned to date: The Blues Scale, aka the Pentatonic Scale.

So – he told me that if I could learn that scale in as many keys as possible with walking bass lines he also showed me, I’d be miles above where I was at the time…

And he was right.

Over several visits, Gordon also taught me a couple of blues turnarounds.

Forty years on, I am grateful to that man, my de facto musical mentor, for taking the time to help me out.

And one more thing…

The piano Gordon taught me on was the very same piano Leon Russell used in The Concert For Bangladesh.

For more stories, check out The Yale Brothers Podcast. We’re having fun with it.

After years of hemming and hawing; after false starts and heaping helpings of procrastination, my brother and I finally launched our podcast…

Episode 22 – "Casey King: Recovery in a Virtual World" Yale Brothers Podcast

Casey King is all about changing the face of recovery. Casey's a physics professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, and through his work with the Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series aims to reduce the stigma society places on those in recovery. He has been sober since 2005. In 2008, he founded and launched the series – a popular event that has included a growing “Who’s Who” of featured celebrity speakers – from actors to rock stars to medical professionals and many more. The series also features presentations and panels including college students, recovery advocates and spokespersons from local recovery groups, rounding out a lecture series that shines as a beacon of hope for those still struggling with addiction and a lamp on the path of those on their recovery journeys. The program is set to continue this year in a virtual setting on the Zoom platform, beginning on January 28 and continuing every Thursday until February 18. SHOW NOTES 0:00 – "Seeing's Believing" by Chris Yale 4:05 – About the song. From Chris' album "Well Enough Alone" 4:35 – Introducing Casey King Louis Gossett, Jr. / Mackenzie Phillips / Danny Trejo / Art Alexakis / Bob Forrest/ Dr. Drew Pinsky 8:10 – Overview of series 8:40 – About Casey 9:18 – Trajectory of series 14:21 -Jeff VanVonderen / Meredith Baxter / Candy Finnigan / Ken Seeley 18:23 – Booking Louis Gossett, Jr / The Gary Stromberg connection 20:09 – Danny Trejo's appearance was the most well-attended on-campus event in HGTC history. 22:00 – Degrees of separation 22:39 – Local recovery and advocacy groups: Lighthouse Care Center / Shoreline Behavioral Health Services / FAVOR Grand Strand – Faces and Voices of Recovery / Grand Strand Health 23:35 – COVID-19 / Series to go virtual 24:30 – Virtual recovery meetings paved the way for this year's series. 25:30 – "World Home Group" – Scotland, Australia, Berlin, Ireland, Tenerife 26:21 – Speaker reveal LINK / Casey King and Coastal Carolina University's Wes Fondren   26:50 – This year's speakers: Craig T. Nelson / Keith A. Somers / Carnie Wilson / Gary Stromberg / Paul Williams Click HERE for series details and access. It's free and you can be anonymous if you wish. 34:42 – Changing the Face of Recovery 36:00 – Casey's advice for those still struggling To reach out to Casey, call or text (843)450-6482
  1. Episode 22 – "Casey King: Recovery in a Virtual World"
  2. Episode 21 – "What's the Matter with Your Eyes, Boys?"
  3. Episode 20 – "I Was a Punk Before You"
  4. Episode 19 – "Emotional Support Chihuahuas?"
  5. Episode 18 – "Roger That?"

The first time we tried this, embarrassingly enough, was in 2008, when podcasts were still gaining steam and long before they became ubiquitous. Over a period of a years, we made several more stabs at this – and then we just stopped.

Some earlier attempts went up on SoundCloud, sort-of complete but not quite actual episodes. But we had stories to tell…

And we still do. Stories about growing up in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a period when the town was what my brother called “beautifully grungy” – well before a Build-A-Bear Workshop appeared across from the Chinese Theater.

We lived at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive, in an apartment building wedged directly in between the fabled Magic Castle and a 40-unit hotel our father managed called The Magic Hotel. The hotel is now called The Magic Castle Hotel.

At that time, not only the names of the buildings were magic. Our young lives were as magical as could be.

This podcast will be cathartic for us, and I hope the stories of twin boomers coming of age in lotus land will strike a chord with those curious enough to have a listen.

But we’re not just about looking back. Expect to hear original music in each episode and updates on what’s going on with us now in Myrtle Beach.

Still 12

Yale Brothers with SignsMy brother and I have done six or seven of these SoundCloud audio tracks, which would be considered podcasts if we had them set up with the proper feeds and delivery systems.

The fact that we haven’t yet done that is a head-scratcher – considering that a middle school kid could likely have us ready to go in minutes.

But we love these sessions, and they have a way of meandering off into the tangential.

Where else in 30 minutes can you hear about everything from the bands Big Country and TSOL to Robert Morse and Larry Kert and (of all people) Fifi D’Orsay – to Orson Welles‘ questionable housekeeping practices – to my incessant vaping – to our upcoming gigs at House of Blues Myrtle Beach?

Yale Bros Podcast Pic

I WAS WRONG: We ARE playing the Brews Blues & BBQ event there this Saturday!

Blues and Brews HOB

We’re dads as well – so we love to chime in about what our adult children are up to!

This is, indeed, a junk drawer – but we all know what cool shit is to be found in the junk drawer.

Have a listen.

Even though we haven’t figured out the proper feeds and under-the-hood stuff to officially call this a podcast – the fact that we have another half-hour conversation in the can, as they say, is a testament to our resolve.

As a fitting follow-up to my last blog post, we talked about my trip to Charleston last week and our memories of “A Chorus Line” back in the day. Boy oh boy our dad gave us so many wonderful memories.

A Chorus Line

The other original cast member that we forgot for the moment was Priscilla Lopez, who was the original Diana Morales. Wayne Cilento, the original Mike Costa in the show, was nominated for seven Tony Awards – finally snagging one for choreography for the Who’s “Tommy” in 1993.

How could we forget that it was Ann Miller who starred in “Sugar Babies” alongside Mickey Rooney when we saw it at the Pantages in Hollywood back in the day. I was thinking of Ann Jillian, who became famous from that show.

This week’s “Stump the Guru” was an attempt by yours truly to trip up Chris about the band, Translator. He did not falter.

Translator

Chris got a check from ASCAP yesterday, what he calls mailbox money.

Other items: The Continental Hyatt (Riot) House on Sunset – and our encounter with Little Richard. Chris’ earlier encounter with him at rock ‘n’ roll Denny’s on Sunset and Vista before that. The Central, which became the Viper Room. Filthy McNasty, the FM Station and Eddie Money “opening” for our band there.

 

Hell – does anybody remember the Bla Bla Cafe?

Vinyl: Luddite or leave it?

We had fun – and this makes me wonder why we haven’t done hundreds of these.

I am glad I went to my brother’s house today, because we messed around and got 30 minutes of audio – I guess you would call it priming for our podcast.

My brother, Chris Yale, insists that these are not podcasts, but simply recordings. Not podcasts until we get the proper feeds and platforms in place.

Christian Roger With Signs

So be it – but I am still happy to share this recording – where I start with trying to stump Chris about Echo & The Bunnymen – and segueing into the sad news about the demise of the local Myrtle Beach alt-weekly, The Surge, for which I was a regular contributor – then on to our adult children and how they are faring currently – and then a couple of other items about growing up in LA, which will be regular features.

Music. Covers versus originals. Lovable drunks at gigs. Douches at gigs.

The way Chris pronounces the word “ruin.”

And of course, Chris’ rotisserie chickens, er – his chihuahuas.

In all, a worthwhile effort, I think. Looking forward to this adventure with my twin.

 

 

 

 

Here we go – trying to see if this Yale Brothers minicast track works without flipping to the next track in the queue.

This is the only way to learn – all of this “under-the-hood” stuff is something my brother and I can live without.

A couple minutes centering on, primarily, the long gone Garden Court Apartments in Hollywood – a “decrepit old place” by the time we saw it. At that time, circa 1977, we were living with our father a bit west of this on Hollywood Boulevard and Fuller – at a great old apartment complex, also long gone – called Peyton Hall.