The "Outta Leftfield" Weblog

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A little backstage magic

Put together a guy who asks questions for a living with a guy who likes to tell stories and it’s pretty easy to kill an hour.
The difference this time was the guy doing the talking – Joe Butler of the Lovin’ Spoonful – and the stories he was sharing were about making music in the 1960s and included names like Brian Wilson, Ed Sullivan and legendary record producer Phil Spector.
That makes it a really unique and special way to kill an hour.
That’s just what happened Friday night at the Sellersville Theater 1894 between two performances by the Lovin’ Spoonful.
The band – whose original members included two rockers from Long Island, Butler and Steve Boone, who got together with two folk musicians from Greenwich Village, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky – hit it big in the mid-1960s with hits like “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Daydream,” “You Didn’t Have to be So Nice,” “Nashville Cats” and “Summer in the City.” The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
I had interviewed Butler to preview the shows. It was a fun interview, and on the night of the performances, The Blonde Accountant and I got to go into the green room and meet Butler and other band members, including Jerry Yester, who played piano on “Do You Believe in Magic” in 1965 and joined the band full-time in 1967.
Butler and Yester – the brother of Jim Yester of another 60s group, The Association – are just two happy and friendly guys who have been making music for more than 40 years. We sat there and listened as they told story after story about their musical journeys. Butler talked about meeting Ed Sullivan for the first time. Yester talked about being in an adjoining studio when Brian Wilson was recording the famous “Pet Sounds” album.
Of course, it was the 60s and these guys were young rock and rollers, so there were some, uh . . . illicit substance references sprinkled here and there into some of the stories.

The only band member we didn’t get to meet was Steve Boone, one of the original four, who Butler said was taking a nap between shows. Hey, these guys aren’t spring chickens anymore so old guy jokes appeared to be fair game as well.
At one point, Butler looked at me and said, “I better quit talking, I’m starting to get hoarse.” And then he proceeded to tell stories for another half hour.
Butler, Yester and I even goofed around for the photo that accompanies this piece. I think Yester is trying to give me the bunny ears. How incredibly silly and funny is that for our age group? My kind of guys, these two.
It was a fascinating and entertaining evening – oh and the show was great, too – and I appreciate having had the opportunity to get a peek behind the curtain that most fans don’t get a chance to experience.
Hey, I believe in magic.

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Location: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania

Mike Morsch has been executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers since 2003. His award-winning humor column "Outta Leftfield" has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, the Suburban Newspapers of America and the Philadelphia Press Association.

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