Michael via a woman named Cathy, his friend - an outrageous woman. Michael had this idea about doing performance and such, and said, "here, do this. Michael: I just grew up in music. My family was all kinda musical. My uncle played the trumpet with Duke Ellington. My father played saxophone, my cousins played piano, bass and guitar. Started out with piano myself. I just naturally banged the piano while all the rest of the family could just walk to the piano and play by ear.
It's natural. They did give me formal lessons, but I would memorize the piece and then pretend like I was reading it. She'd ask, "Where are you? Although I can read music, I didn't like to. It made my feet hurt laughs all around. I didn't like to read music, so I figured I didn't like to do it the right way, I like to do it my way. So I would make up stuff. I would always play the classical pieces but I would throw my own stuff in there.
And I would give it a beat. So then I went to college, because my father had a degree in music, too. I decided to try and take harmony, but I would still memorize and play my own way. I knew how to write music and do harmony and all that, but I learned it for a reason - so I could unlearn it and tear it up. Know your enemy So my grandfather played the guitar, he had like these old Spanish classical guitars.
He gave me his guitar. So I went and taught myself how to play guitar in three months. I lived on a musical block around 87th and King Drive - producer Carl Davis lived on the corner, so that would be the whole Brunswick Records people like Jackie Wilson coming by his house.
I would see all them, and they'd be playing in his garage for like holiday events - Gene Chandler, Mary Wells not a Brunswick artist, but she dated DavisOtis Leavill. On the other end of the block we had the bass player from Ramsey Lewis, which was Mr. Cleveland Eaton. Across the street we had Calvin Carter, who owned Vee Jay with his sister Vivian, so they would play the Beatles and stuff like that. Next door, we had the vice-president of Motown's sister, which was Mrs.
Curtis Mayfield lived around the corner. The Staple Singers and Howlin' Wolf, they used to live down 89th. I was aware of all that stuff, but then I heard the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. So how did a nice black kid like you derail from the Stairsteps to the Stooges? Michael: Because I thought it sounded the same! To me, the Stooges had a swing to them. They weren't like all the other rock groups.
The rock groups didn't have that swing. I didn't know at the time that Iggy and them were listening to James Brown and playing the blues, but I could tell that this wasn't Grand Funk Railroad! Grand Funk didn't have that swagger! And Grand Funk was from the Detroit area like the Stooges, and had the word "funk" in their name, so you wonder how the groove missed them Michael: They were just so white!
They were so straight groovewise! But I enjoyed them, though they weren't soulful. Travis: That is the period of Iggy's career that I love! Michael: He was so nasty! Travis: I never stopped listening to him! Michael: I still listen to him! Travis: For their show here in Chicago, I treated everybody I knew and we went! Michael: And then there's the Velvet Underground.
The bass player was John Cale. They only had three records in the student lounge - they had the Velvet Underground's first album, they had the Hollies, and one other group I think it was Jefferson Airplane. And you could tell, between the three of them, who listened to black music. The Hollies were fun, but they'd be doing theirthen the Jefferson Airplane would be sings a SLIGHTLY funkier bass patternbut they didn't have that sings an all-the-way funky bass line, like the Stooges would have done.
Now what about your own bands? We played at strip clubs, we played talent shows, people would just open their mouths and go starts gasping. Michael: Well, the strippers would dance to the blues. We'd play some Barry White What was this band called? Michael: I don't know, some teenage name But no records?
Michael: Nothing like that. So, Travis, the s were changing all while you were in the military. Were you shocked at the world when you finally got out?
Travis: What happens outside the military makes its way into the military. In the Navy, each year another America came aboard. The We Dance Tonight (Monster Mutant Talking Mix) is, we would go to Europe and hear and see all the stuff that was going on.
The music didn't matter to me at all. I did not care. I was interested in the performing aspect. What were they saying? What were the bands talking about? And most of them weren't talking about anything. If they weren't talking about something, there had to be something that moved me. Like Iggy and the Pink Floyd from day one!
Then of course, after getting out of the military inthis other world that was happening was incredibly fun for me. I had been in New York when the Stonewall riots happened.
I was IN it! I had never seen such a thing in my entire life. It was outrageous, going to queer bars. Because for me, the deal with music at that time was, what could you do on the dance floor to it? Of course, it was forbidden to dance to so much stuff at that time. You had to sit back and go hippie voice "oh wow.
Travis: The Stonewall was a queer dance club. It was a BAR! What kind of stuff did they play? You had Eric Burdon, the California sound of course. But the kinds of things that I recall were things that allowed me to do things on the dance floor. On the dance floor of these various bars, you performed! So that, for me, was what the music meant. I didn't care that much for most of the bands because they really weren't talking about that much.
So they had to sound good. Where did you see them? Travis: I didn't see them, but from the first moment I heard? I watch the video. Most of the other groups I saw - the Velvet Underground, all those people - beforeI was still in the Navy, but when the ship pulls into port, you can get all this culture.
What kids in the Phillipines did with the Doors, for instance, blew me away. Kids who didn't even speak English could play every note the Doors ever played and sound like Jim Morrison down to the nth degree.
You'd go to these clubs and they were floating walls. For me, that's what the music meant. It had to be more than just the notes. In a COGIC church where people are playing and rolling on the floor, and you're feeling something, that's when it pulls me in. Not because it was music. I don't like music! So when you and P. Michael: It picked us! Michael: We could have laughter all around Travis: P.
Michael would do all this stuff that I knew in the back of my head. Because me being from Mississippi, I heard all that, and my mother is a wild woman to this very day! And her friends were into everything Mississippi and Tennessee. They went up and down the road from Memphis to Tupelo.
They were wild then and are still wild! So I was hearing not only Mahalia, but also this stuff in the background that P. Michael would play that I heard but didn't pay any attention to. Then it would come back and I would mysteriously know the lyrics from hearing it so much. So out of the blue P. Michael would say, "we're gonna do 'Gimme Fever! Michael: We went to a disco once and we were playing our stuff and all of a sudden we went into "Daddy Rolling Stone! We were at a charity dinner in Evanston Travis: At a wedding, you did this Jamie at Home Jamie Does Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
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