“Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune, something to make us all happy…”
You’ll be feelin’ alright when Traffic’s Dave Mason plays you a tune (sings a song, plays guitar, makes it snappy) July 11 at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
A founding member of psychedelic Brit rock band Traffic, Mason— with members Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood — was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Do yourself a favor and YouTube the video of Mason and Traffic playing “Feelin’ Alright” at that induction ceremony, rocking out with Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Keith Richards, Jackson Browne, The Temptations, Paul Schaefer and more.
It is unreal, my music-loving friends.
Of course, Mason, 71, is killer on his own. The guitar hero has played and recorded with everyone from Paul McCartney and George Harrison, to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Cass Elliot and more.
His 1970 solo album “Alone Together” featured the commercial hit “Only You Know and I Know," which reached No. 42 on the Billboard chart.
Now on his “Alone Together Again” tour, he’ll play plenty of solo and Traffic hits at the Z on Tuesday.
Mason was born in Worcester, England in 1946. Growing up, his initial goal was initial dream was to become a member of the Royal Air Force.
“That’s what I wanted to do, but my math skills weren’t good enough for the exams,” he told me.
But when he picked up guitar at 16, everything changed.
“It seemed like a good idea, everyone else was doing it. I was a fan of instrumental bands, like The Ventures,” he told me. “I knew I wasn’t going to work 9 to 5. So I guessed it was either a life of crime, be a bum, or be musician.”
By 17, Mason was in his first band, The Jaguars. At 18, he met musician Jim Capaldi and the rest, as they say, is history.
Through Capaldi, he met Steve Winwood and Chris Wood. They would form Traffic.
I asked Mason how the roots of the band formed.
“Jim and I grew up close to each other we had bands before Traffic. Steve Winwood and [Wood] we met in Birmingham, at a late night club. We were just four young kids hanging out when we could… and eventually that became Traffic.”
I asked him about the name.
“Jim thought of the name. We liked it because there’s no “The” in front of it,—plus you’re advertised on every road in the world.”
The group's first single "Paper Sun” was written by was the Winwood and Capaldi, followed by Mason's "Hole in My Shoe" which hit number two in the U.K. in 1967.
As for his songwriting process, there is “no real process,” Mason told me.
“It could be some music, a catchphrase, something I hear somebody say” that sparks a song, he said. “I don’t have a process on anything.”
As it says on his website, “Mason's journey with Traffic was fitful, yet fruitful.”
Before Traffic’s first album released in late 1967, Mason left the band and recorded a solo single, "Little Woman.”
According to his official site biography: “Artistically Mason had started the process of establishing himself.”
So he left for the U.S. to pursue a solo career, but when Traffic arrived in the U.S., he rejoined. “Feelin' Alright" released as the first single off their 1968 sophomore album. About a month after the release, Mason left the band again, and it broke up shortly afterward.
Their small but dense body of work — including “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” "House for Everyone,” “Cryin' to Be Heard” and “Don't Be Sad" — is enough to make them rock legends.
I asked Mason whether he likes playing with a band or solo more.
“I just like playing, so either way is good with me,” he said.
Now, you know you’re a killer guitarist when you end up on Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland.”
“Hendrix was just amazing. He was very innovative,” he said. “There were a lot of great guitar players out there, but there are no more Jimi Hendrixes.”
Amen to that.
Another historic moment: Mason was with Hendrix when Jimi heard Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” for the first time. Hendrix, of course, would go on to create a blazing version of that song.
“We heard it together in someone’s apartment. He must’ve picked up on that song and wanted to cut it,” Mason said.
Mason, of course, has also had some Big Names cut versions of his own songs. Most notably, Joe Cocker’s interpretation of “Feelin’ Alright.”
“Joe Cocker, his version stands the test of time,” Mason told me.
Micheal Jackson also sang on one of Mason’s albums, "Old Crest on a New Wave," joining in on “Save Me.”
“He was working in the other studio; I needed someone to sing a high part, and I asked him. He said, “When I was 12, we were doing a Diana Ross TV Special and we did ‘Feelin’ Alright.’ So OK,.”
I asked Mason about his connections with The Beatles.
“I attended some sessions; I played on George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass,’ and I played on ‘Listen To What Man Says’ with McCartney.”
As for retirement?
“I don’t know retirement is,” he told me. “I can’t see doing nothing but playing golf. I have to be doing something.”
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer and music columnist. Her weekly music column “Spotlight With Lauren Daley” runs regularly each Thursday in Standard-Times’ Coastin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her athttps://www.facebook.com/daley.writer She tweets @laurendaley1.