Bill Lloyd from The Long Players hands over a check for $1,000 to Debbie Carroll, Executive Director at MusiCares. MusiCares is one of two charitable arms of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, best known for the GRAMMY Awards.
The Long Players made MusicCares their charity of choice after they performed George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album in December of 2011 and Fleetwood Mac's self-titled 1975 album in January of 2012.
At each of the band’s public performances, The Long Players donate a portion of the evening's proceeds to a featured charity. On more than a few occasions, funds have gone directly to musicians to supplement health care expenses when insurance wasn’t enough. At other times the proceeds have been donated to organizations such as MusicCares, The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Alive Hospice and others.
Nashville's Long Players are not a cover band. They're a tribute band.
Not a tribute band in the sense that Mini KISS is a KISS tribute band, or in the sense that Coldplay is a U2 tribute band. When The Long Players take the stage — as they've done at Mercy Lounge and Cannery Ballroom nearly every month for the past seven years — it's to pay tribute to one of rock's most beloved but increasingly antiquated mediums: the album.
"To me it's about the celebration of these records," says LPs guitarist and co-founder Bill Lloyd, "[because] albums as an art form are starting to disappear."
You've heard of the concept album. Theirs is the album concept: meticulously performing faithful renditions of classic rock's most cherished albums live, in their entirety, followed by a grab-bag-style set of songs from the featured artist's greater catalog.
Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, The Clash's London Calling, Prince's Purple Rain and Beatles classics like Rubber Soul, Abbey Road and even The White Album are among the 49 LPs The LPs have taken on to date. And this weekend they'll celebrate tackling their 50th album with a Friday night performance of The Rolling Stones' landmark double album Exile on Main St. — in reference to their maiden performance of the Stones' Let It Bleed — followed by a Saturday night blowout of hits culled from their entire "discography."
Beyond making up one-half of the '80s country-rock duo Foster & Lloyd, LPs guitarist Bill Lloyd has enjoyed a nearly 30-year career in Nashville as a songwriter, penning hits for Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood and Tanya Tucker. He's gotten work as a session player and sideman — appearing on records by Steve Earle, Placebo and Ray Davies — and released solo records focusing on his fascination with power pop. He even landed a gig as rhythm guitarist with Cheap Trick for their Hollywood Bowl and Vegas tribute performances of Sgt. Pepper's a few years back.
Lloyd's fellow LPs guitarist Steve Allen hails from LA via Tulsa, Okla., power-pop luminaries 20/20. He's appeared on records by Josh Rouse, Duane Jarvis and Jim Lauderdale, while drummer Steve Ebe — formerly of late-'80s Memphis rock notables Human Radio — counts names like The Boxtops, Badfinger, George Ducas and Radney Foster among his sideman credits.
When not busy tickling the black-and-whites with The LPs or Nashville's biggest little cover band, Guilty Pleasures, keyboardist John Deaderick divides his time between sessions and tours with heavy hitters like Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and Dixie Chicks. Regrettably, such professional commitments will explain his absence at this weekend's shindig — The Jayhawks' Jen Gunderman will fill in.
Only in a town like Nashville, with its like-cement concentrated culture and community of virtuosic musicians, would you find such unparalleled musical prowess amalgamated as a tribute act. And only in Music City would you find a tribute act boasting, say, longstanding E Street Band bassist and former Nashvillian Garry Tallent as a founder and former member. "I always pinched myself getting to be in a band with Garry," says Lloyd, an avowed Springsteen fan.
Tallent left the band when he left Nashville for the greener, wider pastures of Montana, although he's made one-off appearances with the band since — like joining them for their take on Elvis Presley's Elvis Presley last year. He was replaced by bassist Brad Jones — co-owner and in-house producer at Nashville's renowned Alex the Great Studio.
According to Lloyd, a years-long tradition of wine-and-vinyl gatherings in Tallent's home vinyl room was paramount to The Long Players' formation. Sometimes known as The Vinyl Throwdown, the get-togethers consisted of Lloyd and Allen — who'd met by chance at the now-shuttered Great Escape in Midtown — along with Ebe, Deaderick and other friends meeting to drink wine, spin 45s and 78s on Tallent's jukebox and pontificate about their favorite records. Lloyd characterizes the gatherings as having been "like a graduate course in music appreciation." The group began playing as the house band at an annual John Lennon tribute and gun-control benefit show, and that evolved into The Long Players in 2004. The civic component that initially brought the band to the stage remains, as proceeds from each of the band's shows have gone to benefit local and national charities such as The Red Cross, Alive Hospice, The Tennessee Environmental Council and Hands On Nashville.
Tallent tells the Scene that playing a Long Players gig at Mercy Lounge gave him more pre-show jitters than going onstage with Springsteen at Giants Stadium. "People in a small club are all in your face and watching and paying close attention to what you're doing, where in a stadium everyone is going up for a beer and it doesn't seem as crucial," he says. "For the Long Players thing ... I really had to have my focus about me."
Lloyd says performing in Nashville for a community that listens with the most critical of ears adds to the unease. "I know a lot of musicians who, when they come to Nashville, really get nervous because the concentration of talent here is daunting." But it's that pedigree within the community that allows them to nab guest musicians like Dez Dickerson, Al Kooper, Adrian Belew and Bobby Keys and guest singers like Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss, Bobby Bare Jr. and Ashley Cleveland.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about The Long Players isn't that they manage to unfailingly pull off performing rock's greatest albums with only a mere two rehearsals per show — or that they can wrangle the talent it takes to do so — but that in a town full of talent and egos, there's at least one band where everyone on stage is a sideman, playing subordinates, reading from the script of rock 'n' roll.
"It allows everybody to take their own version of what their career is about and kinda toss it to the side and go, 'Tonight we're celebrating somebody else's thing,' " says Lloyd. "Whatever joy people get from hearing those songs again, we better be feeling it when we play it too.
In preparing this week's print feature on The Long Players — who celebrate covering their 50th album, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., with a two-night bash at Mercy Lounge this weekend — I got the opportunity to chat it up with former Long Player, long-standing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band bassist and former Nashvillian Garry Tallent. Check out the Q&A below to learn about what Tallent got out of studying John Entwistle and Rick Danko, how he got involved in The Long Players and how playing Mercy Lounge differs from playing Giants Stadium.
Nashville Cream: If you wouldn't mind telling me just a little about your history in Nashville. What brought you here, and what it was like during the years that you lived here.
Garry Tallent: I moved to Nashville in February of ’89 from New Jersey. I had a studio up in New Jersey and worked with a few people from Nashville, and met several people who had just moved to Nashville. At that point I had produced a record with Steve Forbert who was living in Nashville at the time. And I had done some work and met Steve Earle, and met Bill Lloyd when they were putting Foster & Lloyd together and we had even talked about me producing that record, but I was touring at the time and all that. So anyways, I was just a little curious, I just liked a lot of what was going on and came down in late ‘88 and ended up moving there. And at that point, I was just starting to do session work and producing and ended up opening a studio and eventually a record company. Just really getting involved in the whole Nashville scene, and hanging out with a lot of cool musicians I had a lot in common with. I really enjoyed my time there, and I think from getting to know people that had similar interests in old records and music and we’d get together and play old records for one another and eventually that's where the idea of doing something like The Long Players came about, just going and doing live albums beginning to end and using the pool of talent that was in Nashville.
NC: How many records did you guys do while you were a part of The Long Players?
GT: I think we were probably somewhere around 20 or 25. I’ve been gone for about four years now so I’m guessing they've probably done another 25 since I’ve had to relinquish my seat.
NC: Yeah, because they're doing their 50th record. Are you going to come in and join for those festivities?
GT: Well, I’m going to miss the Friday night show, that's my daughter’s birthday ... But, I’ll definitely be there the following night for the 50th, whatever goes on there. I’m not really sure what’s going on, but I’ll be there for that.
NC: What was the most difficult LP to tackle for you as a Long Player?
GT: They were all very different. My problem was that I had really never done cover songs past about 1969, [when] I started playing with an original band, and so I really didn't cover albums. So when we went to do something like The Who and I had to emulate John Entwistle’s playing, or even McCartney’s playing on Sgt. Pepper's, It was all very challenging, but it was all very great, because you could really delve into the styles of the various players. I have to admit that I don't think I played everything note-for-note, but I think what I tried to do was get a feel for the way the individual played and kind of do my version of it and try to emulate it. More than getting every note right, I really tried to study Rick Danko and the way he placed notes, and the substitutions that he would use. The same with all of the [bass] players — Entwistle and all. I never claimed to have every note that they played, but I loved getting into the different styles and different approaches of each player.
NC: Did that process have an influence on your playing later on?
GT: I don't know. I think I got something out of all of it, it was certainly just a good reason to practice your bass, which I don't necessarily do all the time. So it was good in that, and I certainly learned something from every one of them. I don't know if it really changed [my playing], I’m so set in my ways with what I do — I’m sure it did. I honestly have to tell you too, that all those 25 or so albums that we did, that I learned, if I had to play them tomorrow the short-term memory just isn’t what it was. I would really have to go back and learn it all over again. And that was kind of the beauty in doing what we were doing. We were sure of ourselves in it, and then never do it again. It would disappear. Certain aspects of it would be ingrained, but for the most part you just kind of went on and continued on what you did before. And I thought that was a great thing about the performance art aspect of The Long Players — we would do our thing and work really, really hard at it until we made sure we had it, performed it, then let it go and never did it again.
NC: How does the feeling of playing on stage in a club with a cover band differ from playing, say, Giants Stadium?
GT: I have always gotten more nervous in small clubs than in a stadium.
NC: How come?
GT: I couldn’t tell you that. I think it is basically something to do with the fact that people in a small club are all in your face and watching and paying close attention to what you’re doing, where in a stadium everyone is going up for a beer and it just doesn't seem as crucial (laughs). For The Long Players thing, it was so fresh and so new that it really wasn’t ingrained in my DNA, what was going on, so I really had to have my focus about me. I would be still listening to the record on the way to the club, to make sure I got it. Where when I’m playing in a band I’d been in for forty years, a lot of the stuff I’d been doing for at least 20 of those 40 years, and it's just a whole different thing. If anything, the whole experience with The Long Players just puts you on your toes a little more.
NC: Before you go, I really — as a fan — just wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear about Clarence Clemons' passing.
GT: Thank you. I appreciate that. Everybody is still a little stunned be that, but we'll figure out where it goes from there.
NC: Well, I look forward to hearing and seeing whatever ends up happening.
GT: I appreciate it. ... I’ll be back in Nashville and look forward to seeing everybody and I guess a lot of the usual suspects will be out. I really enjoy the social aspect of The Long Players, it’s just a great party and a great hang for everyone to come out and be there and participate. It’s going to be terrific.
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - The album concept is enjoying a big comeback -- if not in record stores, then at least on the live concert stage.
In 2009, such acts as Steely Dan, Phish, the Pixies, Motley Crue and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band have included performances of entire albums in their concert sets.
The concept has been around for years. Pink Floyd routinely played such albums as "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "Animals" and "The Wall" from start to finish on tour.
But even if playing an album in its entirety isn't a new idea for a live act, Nashville's Long Players -- as their punny name suggests -- embrace the concept like few others. The group exists solely to perform classic albums, which it does several times per year in its hometown, often with guest vocalists and performers.
The Long Players began some six years ago with a performance of the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed." On December 26, 35 albums later, the Long Players rolled out Sly & the Family Stone's "Stand" with Mike Farris and the McCrary Sisters as guest vocalists. Nashville is uniquely suited for a group likeThe Long Players. "The bench here is amazing, the number of people you can call on," band member Bill Lloyd says. "We have had a lot of local heroes on our stage, but also a lot of international rock stars come play with us as well."
The Long Players' founding members -- Lloyd (Foster & Lloyd) and Steve Allen (20/20) on guitars, Garry Tallent (E Street Band) on bass, Steve Ebe (Human Radio) on drums and John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks) on keyboards -- gathered to play a John Lennon tribute every year as a benefit. Brad Jones eventually replaced Tallent, when the latter returned to the road with Springsteen.
"Garry and Steve and I were always hanging around spinning vinyl records," Lloyd recalls. "Maybe there was some alcohol involved, and the idea came up: 'What if we did one of these albums from start to finish with these players involved?'"
Lloyd says he was "sort of the concept guy," devising the Long Players' name (which they own) and organizing the performances. "We democratically choose the albums," he says. "We always take a percentage off the top for a charity, then we pay ourselves and we pay the singers."
Album ideas come from the band and fan requests. A local Beatles fest has hosted Long Players performances of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Revolver," "Abbey Road" and "The Beatles" (aka "The White Album").
The Long Players have never played an album twice in public but have done repeat performances for private gigs. "We've played 'Let It Bleed' at least four times now, and we've played Elvis Costello's ("My Aim Is True") three times."
The band plays most of its shows at Nashville's 500-capacity Mercy Lounge or at the venue's 1,000-capacity sister venue the Cannery Ballroom for "bigger" albums. Mercy / Cannery co-owner Chark Kinsolving says The Long Players are a winner for his venues. "On average, 90 percent of their shows are sold out, which is not bad for what is at its core an above-average tribute act," he says. "What really makes it so special is once the show's over, it's over. It's a one-time thing that's never repeated."
The current trend toward live performances of albums flies in the face of the track-oriented listening habits attributed to the generation that's grown up with iTunes. "I like the idea of the album as an art form," Lloyd says. "And I love the fact that there's a whole generation of people who know that one song follows another, and they're ready to sing along with it."
Lloyd says the band has thought about taking the concept on the road, but for now, Nashville works fine.
"We have learned 35 albums and we're not bored," he says. "From a creative point of view, it's a great way to spend your time because you're absorbing all this great, classic music. We're proud of it, we enjoy it, we try to keep our karma clean by always doing the charity aspect, and everybody has a good time."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We all have a soft spot for the music of our youth, but few take it as far as the Long Players. Every few months, this group of busy Nashville session musicians gets together to perform a classic rock album - in its entirety - at a local venue.
Last month, it was Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." In December, Van Morrison's "Moondance." Before that, the Beatles' "Meet the Beatles." The members are all big-time players - Gary Tallent is bassist in Bruce Springsteen's E. Street Band, John Deaderick a keyboardist for the Dixie Chicks and Michael McDonald - but they manage to squeeze in the Long Players shows between their regular gigs.
Named for the vinyl LPs they love, the Long Players have re-created everything from the Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed" to Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True" since forming in 2004. "There are other bands that do this kind of thing," said founding member Bill Lloyd. "But the difference with us is that we keep it in the community and get guest stars to be part of it. That gives it a different spin and keeps it from being a karaoke night." That's easier to do in Nashville, where you can barely swing a guitar without hitting a talented musician or singer.
A different guest singer joins the band for most every song. Southside Johnny did the Stones' "You Got the Silver," Marshall Crenshaw the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing," and Alison Moorer sang Neil Young's "Oh, Lonesome Me." Sometimes, someone from the original recording will sit in. For "Highway 61 Revisited," Al Kooper came down from Boston to replay the signature organ riff on "Like a Rolling Stone," one of the great songs in rock history. Kooper, who once lived in Nashville, has a lengthy rock resume. He founded the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, produced the first three Lynyrd Skynyrd albums and played keyboards on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones. "When Bill (Lloyd) told me about it in the beginning I was kicking myself that he didn't do that when I was still in town," Kooper said. "I only have one more Dylan album I think where I played on the whole album, which is `New Morning.' But then we were thinking we could do some Lynyrd Skynyrd albums, and that would really be fun."
During the "Highway 61 Revisited" show, Kooper sat hunched over the organ in dark sunglasses. A tall guy in the audience with spiky black hair kept shouting along to the cryptic lyrics. "You've been with the professors, and they've all liked your looks. With great lawyers, you have discussed lepers and crooks," he yelled during "Ballad of a Thin Man."
The Long Players choose the albums in more or less democratic fashion. The only caveat is that everyone has to agree; no one is forced to play something they don't want to. "The newest records we've done so far were from 1978," said Lloyd, a solo artist who was half of the former hit country duo Foster and Lloyd. "We've not been able to squeak into the '80s as of yet. I think culturally there was such a glut of what's considered classics in that time period. Given the age we all are - the median age is the late 40s - we're still kind of stuck in the music of our teens."
The members are all friends who started performing together at an annual John Lennon tribute concert to raise money for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. They're also avid record collectors who spin vinyl into the wee hours. It didn't take long for the idea to take hold.
Besides Tallent, Deaderick and Lloyd, the members are guitarist Steve Allen of the former new wave band 20/20 and drummer Steve Ebe of the early '90s pop group Human Radio. Each is expected to learn his part on his own, and they usually meet for only two rehearsals before the show. For something more ambitious, like the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," they will call in a string section or horn players to augment the sound.
Even a seasoned musician like Lloyd says he learns something from each album. Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Cosmo's Factory" had jarring time shifts, and the Pretenders' debut record contained deceptively tricky rhythms and guitar lines, he said. "It's a great education," agreed Deaderick, who at 36 is the youngest Long Player. "I'm playing records that I didn't necessarily grow up listening to, and I'm playing them with guys who did grow up listening to them. So I'm learning from the record and from the guys in the band."
Ten percent of the proceeds from each performance go to charity. For the "Highway 61 Revisited" show, the money went to Doctors Without Borders. "We want it to be something we enjoy doing," Lloyd said. "We don't make a lot of money doing it, so we're largely doing it for the love and the experience."