A GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends Book Promo

Now for the first time, The Recording Academy and Hal Leonard Books have collected two decades of Special Merit Award honoree tributes in A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends. A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends edited by David Konjoyan, offers a glimpse into how artists are personally affected by other artists, and the debt of gratitude, influence and inspiration they owe each other.  Take a look at the book trailer below.

00151136fcThe 87 honorees featured in A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends have made extraordinary contributions to blues, classical, country, R&B, rock, rap and other forms of music either as performers or behind the scenes as producers, engineers, songwriters, executives or technical innovators. The collected tributes are sometimes touching, sometimes humorous and always inspiring.

Editor David Konjoyan writes in his introduction: “As with other innovations, whether science-, technology-, or business-related, none happen in a vacuum and all have deep reverberations. That’s what this book is all about: the sources of those reverberations and the revelations of those who were impacted by them and filtered them into their own groundbreaking work.” 

In some cases, the relationship between the writer and legend is obvious (Quincy Jones honoring Michael Jackson or Miranda Lambert writing about Dolly Parton); in others the influence is perhaps surprising (Queen’s Brian May paying tribute to Doris Day or Steven Van Zandt writing about Dean Martin). Sometimes the reverberations transcend music entirely, as when Sen. Patrick Leahy writes about his friendship with the Grateful Dead. Additional honorees highlighted in the collection include The Beatles; David Bowie; Earth, Wind & Fire; Leonard Cohen; Carole King; Barbra Streisand; and Run DMC.

DAVID KONJOYAN is the Vice President of Creative Services at The Recording Academy. In 2007 he edited And the GRAMMY Goes To…, a coffee-table book celebrating 50 years of the GRAMMY Awards. He has worked as a music journalist and in radio promotion and public relations and has developed and executive-produced two albums: 1994’s tribute to Karen and Richard Carpenter, If I Were a Carpenter, and the offbeat nod to the neo-lounge movement, Lounge-A-Palooza, in 1997. He lives in Los Angeles.


Kenny Aronoff Interview with Guitar Center

Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!recently sat down for an interview on the Guitar Center blog, Music Aficionado. Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, Take a look at the excerpt of the interview below.

KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OLWhat led you to write an autobiography? What made you feel it was time?

It wasn’t my idea to write my autobiography. A writer, Jake Brown, who was interviewing me for a book he was writing about Joe Satriani made the suggestion. He was very enthusiastic and passionate about my writing an autobiography, he and his dad had seen me play at a John Mellencamp show in St. Louis when he was 14 years old. He had to convince me to write my book. The reason I didn’t want to write a book initially, was because I thought it would be a lot of work. And I was right – it took four years!

How did you get started playing music?

I have always been passionate about music. My parents had music blasting on their turntables or the radio all day long when I was a kid, playing mostly jazz, classical, and musicals. My mom taught my sister, brother and myself the piano when we were young, and we eventually took piano lessons, but at age 10 I decided I wanted drum lessons and no more piano – just drums, drums, drums! One year later, when I was 11, I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, aka “The Night That Changed America.” They performed for 72 million people that night. I immediately wanted to be in The Beatles, and when I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I started my first band, the Alley Cats.

What was your first musical “big win” that you let you know “I can do this, I can be a musician.”?

As soon as I played my first concert with the Alley Cats at age 11, I decided I had to do this for the rest of my life, and still feel that way. But I wasn’t sure how to achieve this. There were no mentors, no manuals, or people that I knew that had made it in rock ‘n’ roll. I grew up in a small town of 3,000 people in western Massachusetts. My big commitment was when I decided to go to college as a music major. I studied one year at the University of Massachusetts and four more years at Indiana University School of Music, now called the Jacob School of Music.

I spent one summer studying at the Aspen Music Festival, run by the Julliard School, and one year at Tanglewood, which is led by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We were considered the best student orchestra in America. Our teachers and mentors were the musicians in the BSO, so my percussion teacher was Vic Firth. After graduating from school, I had opportunities to join two orchestras, one in Jerusalem, Israel, and the other in Quito, Ecuador. I declined both offers because my heart still wanted to be in a rock band like The Beatles. So I started studying drum sets with two teachers, Alan Dawson in Boston and Gary Chester in NY, practicing relentlessly, eight hours a day unless I was performing. I lived at home for one year before moving to Indiana, where I started a band with a bunch of very talented musicians in Bloomington. Three years later, I auditioned for Johnny Cougar (John Mellencamp). That was my first big break.

You talk in your book about learning to practice “correctly.” What techniques/topics do you focus on while practicing? What recommendations would you make to someone starting out for practice/development?

Know what your purpose is when you are practicing. Know your goals. Know what you are trying to accomplish. If you are taking lessons, pick a teacher who you trust and believe in, and do what he or she suggests to make you a better drummer, musician, and person.

You’ve played with everyone! What universal qualities do those people share? What makes a good collaborator?

Successful people – no matter what business they are in or what they do in life – are self-disciplined, work their asses off, put in lots of time and know how to stay in the game even when they fail. They are driven to be great even when things get difficult.

Read the full interview here.

Jim Washburn, Dick Boak, and The Martin Archives

The Martin Archives, Jim Washburn with Dick Boak, is a unique inside look into C.F. Martin & Co.’s reign as America’s oldest and most revered guitarmaker – viewed through a selection of images, correspondence, documents, and reproduced artifacts chosen from some 700,000 items the company has amassed over nearly two centuries. The excerpt below takes a look further at the book and its compilation with Noisey.com.


Forty years into his career at America’s oldest guitar company, the luthier and polymath talks about C.F. Martin & Co’s history and impact on popular culture.

The music industry’s most influential players are often its least visible: the record executives we never see, the lawyers whose names we don’t know, the recording engineers whose names we’ve heard but who we wouldn’t recognize on the street. These are the people that see how music is made and know how the artists act offstage. We may not know their names, but they are the industry’s gatekeepers, its preservationists and visionaries.

Take Dick Boak, director of the museum and archives at C.F. Martin and Company who entered the business 40 years ago while dumpster diving. During the counterculture movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, Boak was a poet, artist, and woodworker who specialized in building instruments. When he requested permission to pick through the guitar factory’s leftover wood scraps while traveling through Nazareth, Pennsylvania in 1976, he was impressed by their selection. “I hit the jackpot with rosewood and mahogany and ebony and spruce: woods I had never seen before, let alone at the dimensions and sizes I needed to experiment with guitar making,” Boak recalls. After he sorted through the piles, Boak was asked for samples of his work and shortly thereafter was offered a job. In the decades since, Boak has built hundreds of specialized guitars and helped develop Martin’s artist relations and archive departments, becoming the company’s in-house expert. “I’m a little overly close to Martin,” Boak says now. “I would’ve done the job for free.”

In his early years at Martin, Boak introduced the idea of signature guitars to the company. In 1994, the company produced their first, the Gene Autry model and, since then, the specialized, artist-driven guitar has become an industry staple.. These days, Boak busies himself with cultivating Martin’s historical documents, a task most recently documented by The Martin Archives, a book co-authored by Boak and Jim Washburn that was released this month by Hal Leonard. “It’s Dick’s life’s work, in a way,” Washburn says of the book. “He has a huge appreciation for what the company was and has the vision to project that into the future.”

Though it took Washburn less than two years to write The Martin Archives’ content, Boak’s work on the project began in the early 2000s when he, Washburn and author Richard Johnston collaborated on an earlier project documenting Martin’s history titled Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America’s Premiere Guitarmaker. When they stumbled upon dozens of boxes of company documents in an old factory attic, Boak became determined to preserve the materials and search for others that might exist around the country. He collaborated with museums, music historians, libraries, and eBay traders to track down old photos, newspaper clippings, sales receipts and flyers. When he approached Washburn about The Martin Archives, he handed over a hard drive containing about 4,000 documents.

In the following months, Washburn sifted through the documents Boak provided and research of his own to define the book’s narrative. What they discovered was not only proof of a company’s success but of a country’s march through time. Simple things like factory blueprints and the introduction of paperclips and carbon paper to the company’s filing system told a different side of Martin’s story. “We saw all these inventions come along. Martin moved with the times to take advantage of those things,” Washburn says. “[The book] marks American history as it changed, as seen through the eyes of this one company.”


Read the full interview here.

Sylvia Massy Recording Magazine Feature

Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques, was featured in the mid-January issue of Recording Magazine. In Recording Unhinged, Sylvia Massy and her cohort of celebrity music industry producers, engineers, and recording stars discard fixed notions about how music should be recorded and explore techniques that fall outside the norm and yield emotionally powerful, incredibly personal, gut-wrenching, and even scary recordings. Take a look at the excerpt below.



Coming back to the book, one of the cool things is that it’s not just your techniques and ideas. The book is filled with a lot of great examples of strange and wonderful techniques from other engineers. Do you have a favorite somebody else’s? Or moments putting the book together, or even in your career, where you thought, “Wow, that’s so cool!”?

Sylvia Massy: There’s so many of those wow moments. For instance, Matt Wallace was the one that top dmd about reamping a snare by taping another snare to a PA speaker, running the original snare through it, and milking the new snare. There is a legendary story from Roni Saint Germain which I got him to share for the book, with the singer from Bad Brains being in jail for possession of pot and they recorded his vocals from jail over a telephone. He describes in the book how they did that…

I’ll stop you so readers will go buy the book to hear the rest, but it involves smoking a page out of a Bible before the take…

I was really excited to be able to share some of the legends and amazing techniques from these engineers in the Recording Unhinged book. There are so many more stories to come… I hope to write a second book.

I was going to ask: since you’ve done the book, do you have any new techniques you’ve used recently or that have excited you?

Oh yes. Oh yes. Something for the second Recording Unhinged book includes taking a speaker cable out of a guitar amplifier, and before you plug it into a guitar speaker, you cut it in half, separate leads… and then you plug in some potatoes into those leads so you have a positive potato and you have a negative potato, do you understand what I’m talking about? [laughs]

This sounds like high school science experiments where you light a light bulb with a potato.

That’s where the inspiration came from. I mean, you can light  a light bulb with a potato, so why can’t you filter the audio from a guitar with a potato? It turns out that a potato filter will actually add a nice high shelf to your guitar tone and it adds a kind of graininess which is really quite interesting.

So now you’ve got your potato filter, but you can try any number of other times. You can try carrots, you can try apples, oranges… I find that hot dogs are very good; in fact, two days ago I used a pair of sausages that are cheese sausages, they’re German cheese sausages [laughs]… sorry, I can’t stop laughing while i’m telling you this, but it was incredible! I think it was something to do with the cheese. There was a sound that I couldn’t believe and so for the Flying Mammals session that I’m doing in the castle, if they’ll let me, I’ll cut a cable and we’ll try some of these cheese sausages on guitar.

Here’s a bit of warning, though. If you’re going to do this at home, it’s better to use a solid state amp for this, because the tube amps don’t like it and they eventually start smoking and you’ll probably blow some of the fuses, but the solid state amps seem to do pretty good.

There are more stories, too. Ed Cherney actually told me how to wire household appliances into the guitar chain… but you’re going to have to actually get the next book so I can draw the diagram on how you wire it up.

To read the full interview, pick up the latest copy of Recording Magazine.

#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent Harmony Central Review

#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, interweaves a wild and entertaining adventure with his off-color social commentary on a dying industry in a rapidly changing world – a world in which the Internet fails to stave the economic divide, independent musicians have no shot at a living wage, all because Big Tech controls the commerce of music at all levels. Below is an excerpt of a review posted by Harmony Central.

00147344A decade ago, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman, a collected publication of message board posts from anonymous user “Mixerman,” skewered the music industry from behind the mixing console. Arrogant, questionably talented musicians, meddling and insane producers, and the moneymen of artist marketing populated Mixerman’s “identities changed to protect the guilty” true story about the sausage factory that churned out radio-ready “product” in the early-00s. It was instant hit in engineering and musician circles, and truly a product of its time, with big label hubris blinding the industry to the fact that they were already, much like Wile E. Coyote, treading air ten feet beyond the edge of the cliff, waiting for self-awareness to initiate the inevitable plunge into the canyon (cue slide whistle). Funny, ironic, and incredibly insightful, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman combined industry and engineering information in an easy-to-digest format for casual readers through a an involving story and solid narrative beats. Long-since outed as producer/engineer Eric Sarafin, Mixerman began publishing chapter-length blog posts on his site in 2015 that are now collected in the 304 page hardcover novel #Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, published by Hal Leonard.

#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent stars the same narrator/author as TDAoMM, but this time fully embraces fiction to tell the very real story of where music production was at in the year 2015. The story can be summarized as such: Mixerman agrees to mentor the son of an Indian billionaire in exchange for a fat paycheck and gets involved in a financially risky race to create a 5 million dollar hit… shenanigans ensue. The narrative and pace are solid and engaging, and like TDAoMM, the characters have voices and personalities that are quirky yet grounded in reality, but the narrator’s journey is really just (satisfying) trappings for a bigger story; the state of the music industry, technology, and even Western Culture.

To read the full review, click here.

Howard Massey Chats with Music Connection

Howard Massey, author of The Great British Recording Studiossat down for an interview with on the Producer Crosstalk segment of Music Connection to discuss his career from a musician to now an author. The Great British Recording Studios tells the story of the iconic British facilities where many of the most important recordings of all time were made. Check out the excerpt below.

00333513Engineer, music journalist and newly minted novelist Howard Massey came to the business as many do: as a musician. After a move to London and an inked publishing deal, he logged hours at Pathway Studios. When the engineer there told him he was leaving, he asked Massey to fill the vacancy. As his repertoire broadened, he found that he was something of an expert on the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. So good, in fact, that a friend suggested he write a book on it. He’s since scribed Behind the Glass and co-authored Geoff Emerick’s 2006 acclaimed Here, There, and Everywhere. Recently he has branched into fiction.

Howard Massey’s career has been shaped by a series of “left turns,” as he calls them. “I started out wanting to be a rock & roll star,” the writer explains. “I discovered that I had good ears. When I returned to New York, I was offered a job at Electric Lady Studios and when the [Yamaha] DX7 came out, I got one of the early ones. I found that no one really knew how to use it, including the people at Yamaha, surprisingly. So I locked myself in a room and learned to program it. A friend said I should teach other people. Later, someone else suggested I write a book.” In 1986, The Complete DX7 was published and his literary career thereby drew its first breaths.

With such a level of studio acquaintance––37 featured in Behind the Glass––Massey has thoughts on what signifies a space with staying power. “If people are flocking to book a studio, there’s something they’re doing right,” he observes. “Of course these days any studio that’s still in business, by definition, is successful because everything’s changed dramatically. Clients demanded more and record companies insisted on lower hourly rates. Studios got caught in the cash crunch. Of the 36 discussed in my book The Great British Recording Studios, only three are still in business.

“People today don’t feel the need to go into a professional studio,” he continues. “That’s a bit misguided. There are few artists in history who’ve had the ability to produce themselves well and view their work objectively. You can probably count [them] on one hand. If nothing else, having an objective third set of ears is invaluable. These days everybody thinks they can be a musician, songwriter, engineer and producer wrapped into one. It’s not that easy to be good at different things. I’m not saying nobody can do it. I’m saying few can. It’s hard to master several crafts at the same time and exceptionally hard to be objective about your work.”

Read the full interview here.

The Twilight Zone FAQ Excerpt

With the New Year a couple days away, Syfy will be airing a Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s Day. Enjoy an excerpt below from Dave Thompson’s, The Twilight Zone FAQThe Twilight Zone FAQ takes the reader back to that halcyon era, looking back on the show and its impact as a force for societal change, via reflections on the manifold topics and controversies that the show took on – from the space race to the Red Menace, from paranoia to madness and beyond.

“Where Is Everybody?” (First broadcast: October 2, 1959)

The Twilight Zone’s much-anticipated pilot episode was the tale of a man who found himself alone on a road, walking into a strange town, and discovering that he was the only person there. Every place he visited, from a diner on the outskirts, to the police station, a movie theater and a drugstore, was deserted, and while he continually saw signs of recent activity . . . a boiling coffeepot, a still-lit cigar, a ringing telephone and so on . . . life itself was altogether absent. His sole companions, it appeared, were a dressmaker’s mannequin seated in a car and his own reflection in a mirror.

It is a fascinating study of isolation and loneliness, edging into paranoia and terror. Throughout what quickly turns from a perplexing mystery to a screaming terror, the man cannot help but feel he is under constant observation, and when he finally cracks, that was the horror that he verbalizes. Stop watching me!

00130445fcOnly in the last minutes of the story do we understand who the man is and why he is in this predicament—an astronaut undergoing isolation training, in the days when the space race was still in its infancy and science had barely succeeded even in launching satellites into space, let alone a manned craft. Some liberties were taken, of course. The dimensions of the Mercury spacecraft, after all, were tiny—so much so that no candidate over five-foot-eleven and 180 pounds could even be considered.

Ferris appears much larger than this (although it is difficult to judge, with all but a few moments of his entire time on-screen being spent alone). But nobody watching the episode would doubt that he readily filled another of the requirements—he was a “superb physical specimen . . . [a] mature, middle-class American, average in . . . and visage, [a] family man.”

But he is also a family man who is left shattered by the sheer desperate loneliness of the mission he is about to undertake. For, staring up at the sky, to the stars and moon, even the most hardened viewer cannot but suppress a shiver as Serling reveals what awaited Ferris, and all who would follow in his footsteps.

“Up there . . . up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky . . . up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting . . . waiting with the patience of eons . . . forever waiting . . . in the Twilight Zone.” “Where Is Everybody?” was filmed on the same Universal-International lot that had hitherto featured in such movies as It Came from Outer Space (1953) and Tarantula (1955); and, later, would be seen in Gremlins (1984) and Back to the Future (1985).

The decision to allow Serling himself to handle the narration was very much a last-minute thing—other names were suggested, including Westbrook Van Voorhis, of the March of Time series of radio broadcasts and newsreels, but fears that such already-familiar voices were too readily associated with other shows eventually saw the field whittled down to the show’s creator alone. Just as he had always intended.

It was a move that would find immediate support from the critics. Deep into the first season, TV Guide was still moved to report, “a highly competent group of actors has been employed on The Twilight Zone—Burgess Meredith, Everett Sloane, Dan Duryea, Ed Wynn, fellows like that. But the real star of the series is its creator, chief writer, executive producer and narrator, Serling himself. It is the Serling touch that brings The Twilight Zone out of the everyday—and into the beyond”; establishing it, in fact, as “the most refreshing new anthology series in some time, [with] imagination, highly competent production and excellent acting. There isn’t much meat in it, but, for a mulligan stew, it is a tasty dish indeed.”

The New York Daily News agreed. “The premiere episode of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone … was a suspenseful, tautly-written story of an Air Force officer who finds himself in a completely deserted town. This is still an interesting theme, even though it has been used in other works, including the current [science fiction/end of the world] movie, The World, the Flesh and the Devil.” An interesting comparison, albeit one that must take into consideration the very different payoffs that the two productions deliver.

Other reviews of the episode were likewise enthusiastic.

“This debut scored with dramatic impact infrequently found when the TV camera attempts to focus on the fringes of fantasy, and while short on insight, it was strong on style and solidly suspenseful,” declared the Hollywood Reporter, while Time magazine called the show “a fresh idea presented by people with a decent respect for the medium and the audience . . . proof that a little talent and imagination can atone for a lot of television.”

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Earl Holliman was singled out as “painfully convincing as the last man on earth in an episode that brilliantly exploited those story line details the eye and ear remember long after the fadeout.” Across the board, reviews and reviewers were spellbound, although there was some dissent. The revelation that the events of the show took place only in the mind of a NASA test subject was not to everybody’s taste—more than one viewer, at the time and subsequently, would describe the tale’s solution as simply a variation on the most grisly storytelling clich. of them all, the breathless cliff-hanger that is resolved because “then the little boy woke up.”

Or, as Variety put it, “since the zinger lies in the denouement, it is here where Serling lets down his audience by providing a completely plausible and logical explanation. Somehow the viewer can’t help but feel cheated, even though Serling gives it a topicality attuned to the current human experimentations in preparation for space travel. A science fiction ending would be more in the realm of the imagination.”

But the strength of the story, the beauty of the photography and the power of the more-or-less monologuing Earl Holliman were such that any and all disappointments were overridden. Such values were, of course, common to many pilot episodes, as all concerned threw their very best efforts into displaying the project in the best possible light. But Serling was already committed to retaining those values throughout the entire series, a point that Variety predicted in its review of the opening story. “Everything about [The] Twilight Zone suggests solid production values, with director Robert Stevens extracting maximum performance in this one-man (almost right up to the end) journey into shadow.”

Yet ratings were low. Lower than low. Then sponsors were edgy, the network aghast. Serling might have consoled himself with the knowledge that the fifteen million people who tuned in for the first few episodes was many more than witnessed Oklahoma! throughout its entire Broadway run, but he was comparing chalk and cheese.

With less than one-half of the season either filmed or in production, the possibility that The Twilight Zone might be canceled before its first season was even complete was never far away. Serling himself joked that there were three principal occupational hazards facing the average television producer—hair loss, hypertension and ulcers. He only hoped he could keep all three at bay until the full season was in the can, but a growing tide of industry opinion seemed to be that the show’s life span was already nearing its end.

No matter that ratings offered only a very subjective snapshot of a show’s overall viewing public . . . in that strange way the human race has of playing “follow the leader” at every available opportunity, the news that a show was struggling in the ratings was itself often enough to turn hitherto faithful viewers away from it—out of fear, perhaps, that their neighbors might discover they watched a loser show, and ostracize them accordingly.

Serling himself believed a mail bag that hit twenty-five hundred letters across the first three weeks of the show spoke louder than the ratings, and maybe he was correct. But networks are in the business of pleasing their sponsors, and sponsors are in the business of making money. A couple of thousand people had bought a couple of thousand stamps, and used them to mail a couple of thousand letters, that is true. But how many General Foods products did they also buy? How many Kimberly-Clark?

Enough, it seemed. By the end of the year, Serling was claiming that at least one of the show’s sponsors had informed him that there was a 90 percent chance of the company renewing its sponsorship on the strength of the show’s mailbag . . . or, rather, on the strength of its contents, which was almost unilaterally in favor of the show. Other observers, too, were impressed. Bill Baur of TV Guide even claimed that Serling was in receipt of more fan mail than anybody else on television. . . even if “a great deal of [it] is from neighboring planets.”

In fact, Serling placed very little faith in the content of his mailbag, positive or negative, recalling instead how a favorite episode of the Lassie show, in which the titular collie gives birth to a litter of puppies, was lambasted by viewers—many from the Deep South; many written in the same hand and posted from the same mailbox, that apparently compared the birth of Lassie’s pups to some kind of bump-and-grind burlesque show. To which the network responded by banning any further scenes in which puppies might be born.

Besides, the highest accolades were still to come. In January 1960, at its annual Milestone Award dinner, the Screen Producers Guild declared The Twilight Zone as the best-produced television film series of 1959—a considerable feat for a show that had only debuted in October! Producer Buck Houghton received his award from actress Jane Wyman, and, a month later, the New York Times was repeating that both of the show’s sponsors, General Foods and Kimberly-Clark, had renewed their sponsorship deals for the remaining ten episodes of the season. A further ten, opening a second season, were confirmed by CBS on May 11, 1960. (Kimberly- Clark would drop their sponsorship of the show following the last of the summer reruns. They were replaced for season two by Colgate-Palmolive.)

Later in the year, The Twilight Zone won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Work of 1959 in the science fiction field—the first of three consecutive such victories; quickly followed by the first of two successive Emmys. Nor was the show only winning the respect of the industry. Science fiction fandom, too, was thrilling to its audacity and imagination.

How Carrie Fisher Became Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher, best known for for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the  Star Wars saga, has died. Below is an excerpt from Star Wars FAQ (Mark Clark) and how Carrie was chosen for the role.

Casting Call

Even before George Lucas had completed his Star Wars screenplay he was faced with finding actors to portray his still-evolving characters. Auditions began in late August 1975, while Lucas was finishing the fourth draft of the script. While not quite as excruciating a process as writing the films (see Chapter 4), casting soon became another protracted ordeal – both Lucas and for the actors under consideration for major roles.

00122914fcLucas wanted to hire young, unknown performers for the picture’s leading roles, as he had for American Graffiti. This was in part a cost-containment strategy, but he also believed that actors not already associated with other characters would be more effective in the fantasy context of Star Wars. It was one thing to ask viewers to accept Wookiees, lightsabers, and the Force, but something else again to ask viewers to accept someone like, say, Ron Howard as Luke Skywalker. To assist with the talent search, Lucas again relied on casting director Fred Roos, who had served marvelously on Graffiti. At the beginning of the process, Lucas, Roos, and several assistants worked twelve hour days, seeing as many as 250 actors per day. After three grueling weeks of this, to save time and money, Lucas joined forces with another young director, Brian De Palma, who was looking for a group of young unknowns to star in his film Carrie (1976). Lucas and De Palma took the unusual step of hosting joint auditions. Hundreds more actors were invited to come in and try out for both films. Lucas’ demeanor during the process was so low-key that some of the would-be cast member mistook him for De Palma’s assistant.

Nevertheless Lucas had definite ideas about what he wanted and placed a premium on chemistry between his leads. During callbacks (without De Palma), he screen-tested actors as ensembles to see how various would-be Leias, Lukes, and Hanes worked in concert with one another. Early on, Lucas wanted to hire legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune to play Ben Kenobi, but Mifune declined. “If I’d gotten Mifune, I would’ve used a Japanese princess, and then I would have probably cast a black Han Solo,” said Lucas in J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars. One of the trios in contention for the leading roles featured newcomer Will Seltzer as Luke, former Penthouse centerfold Terri Nunn as Leia, and a young Christopher Walken as Han.

Jodie Foster was given serious consideration as Princess Leia. She was screen-tested, but not hired because she was only thirteen years old at the time, and casting a minor would introduce restrictions on the shooting schedule. (De Palma declined to cast her in Carrie for the same reason.) Other performers in the running for major roles included John Travolta, Am Irving (both eventually hired for Carrie), Nick Nole, Tommy Lee Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (later “Boom Boom” Washington on Welcome Back Kotter) – a potential Hans Solo. Ultimately, of course, Lucas settled on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carri Fisher for leads; a pair of distinguished British actors for key supporting parts; and four performers with specialized talents (and physiques) for the remainder of the primary cast.

None of their lives would ever be the same.

Carrie Fisher 

Roos also suggested that Lucas consider Carrie Fisher for the role of Princess Leia. Fisher, born October 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, was Hollywood royalty herself – the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her parents divorced when Fisher was two (Eddie left Debbie to marry Elizabeth Taylor). Fisher appeared alongside her mother in the promotional short “A Visit with Debbie Reynolds” (1959) and in the TV movie Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children (1969). Beginning at age twelve, she worked in her mother’s Las Vegas revue, and at sixteen she and her mother appeared together in the Broadway revival of the musical Irene (1972). Prior to Star Wars, Fisher had made just a single screen appearance, but it was an unforgettable one – as Lorna, a precocious teenager who beds Warren Beatty (minutes before her mother does the same) in director Hal Ashby’s sex farce Shampoo (1975). Lucas liked that Fisher could believably play a bossy, intimidating, character yet still seem warm and likable. Despite concerns over the actress’ weight, he cast her as Leia, paying her $750 per week. With Star Wars, Fisher would finally step out of her mother’s shadow.

Star Wars FAQ tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds, full of frantic chases, narrow escapes, daring victories, and tragic setbacks, culminating in an unlikely triumph that changed the course of the galaxy – or at least of Hollywood.

Kenny Aronoff, “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!” with Salon.com

Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, sat down with SALON.com sharing his journey from his love for the Beatles to working with John Mellencamp, plus his mantra to  “work hard and rock harder.”

KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OLKenny Aronoff is one of the most famous and hardest working rock ‘n’ roll drummers performing today. After four decades behind the kit playing with John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi, and many others, as house drummer for the Kennedy Center Honors, and alongside Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Beatles CBS special The Night That Changed America, Aronoff is listed among Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time” and remains one of the most in-demand live and session drummers in the music business working today.

You got to work your butt off in anything. That’s what the book is about.

In Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll! The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business, Aronoff answers these questions and more, painting the portrait of an artist, instructor, and businessman who never followed the norm, always followed his heart, and never settled for anything short of excellence.

You have to go through a lot of experience to understand how to solve problems to see the problems before they come because they’re going to come.

Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll! takes readers on Aronoff’s amazing journey from the small New England town where he watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to performing alongside Paul and Ringo on a television special 50 years later. Along the way it chronicles an uncommon career in which the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll life are always tempered by his core personal and professional values.

I’ll never be as great as I want to be, but I’m willing to spend the rest of my life trying to be as great as I can be.

Check out the video here.

Alonso Duralde on the Vulture TV Podcast

Alonso Duralde, author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, sat down for a chat about the Best of Christmas TV with Gazelle Emami and Matt Zoller Seitz on the Vulture TV Podcast. The interview covered the quintessential episodes and classics fused with snippets. Take a listen below.



Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas will point you and your rental queue in the right direction. Whether your idea of a holiday classic is White ChristmasBad SantaDie HardEyes Wide Shut, or Gremlins, you’ll find the right film for you, as well as an exhaustively entertaining breakdown of the various screen Scrooges, from Alistair Sim to Jim Carrey to Tori Spelling.

Building on the characters that Alonso covers in the book, The Vulture TV podcast covered the formula of what TV shows go for such as sitcoms focusing on togetherness and communities while dramas focus mores on drama. Shows mentioned with a few snippets and further discussion of the episodes included: South Park, Seinfeld, Futurama, Golden Girls, The Simpsons, and more.

Christmas allows for big, splash decor and also maybe a little more sentimentality than they might get away with the rest of the year.

-Alonso Duralde

What else make for classic TV? Let’s not forget Hallmark which has the traditional family business theme in their movies. There are also Netflix specials and of course the cult classic, animated series which were referred to as the “backbone of Christmas.” Let’s not forget the trifecta: Charlie Brown, Rudolph and The Grinch.

The two tropes that keep coming up, especially in the 70s and 80s. It’s either the Christmas Carol knock off episode where a mean character is visited by ghosts who are played by the co-stars and learns to love Christmas. Or, the ‘no one is coming to my Christmas party’ / ‘oh no, everyone is coming to my Christmas party.

-Alonso Duralde

In Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas you’ll  encounter movies you may never have heard of from the gritty noir Christmas Holiday, starring 1930s singing ingénue Deanna Durbin in her first hard-bitten adult role, to the loony Santa Claus, a Mexican kiddie movie in which St. Nick teams up with Merlin to fight the devil! Plot synopses, video availability, and fun facts – did you know the actor cast as Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life was also in the running to play mean old Mr. Potter? – make this a stocking stuffed with information you’ll turn to every Christmas season.