A Listener's Guide to "Lucky 21"

(The stories behind the songs)

Did you ever wonder how an artist selects songs for each new album? Every one of these 21 songs were selected for this project for a good reason. First of all, I play many different styles of music. My original goal was to release a smooth jazz CD, a folk CD, a classic rock CD, and a guitar instrumentals CD. I had a few songs recorded for each of these projects. Then the booking situation started to dry up, and I needed to find more new places to play. I didn't have time to finish all four CD's, but I wanted to show different music buyers that I played several styles and could please different audiences, so I decided to put all of the different styles on one CD. I'm not sure if anybody ever did that kind of a variety before. Most people don't have the wide enjoyment for music that I do, so most people will probably like some songs and not like others. I figured that, with 21 songs, everyone should be able to hear enough of their favorite style, plus maybe hear a few things that they never heard before! Read on, and see how I ended up with this mix of music!

"Never Can Say Goodbye"

This version is close to the way the song was recorded by Michael Jackson in 1971. Zachary Breaux had a smooth jazz instrumental of this song that was released in January 1997, less than a month before his untimely death from a heart attack while attempting to rescue a swimmer in distress while vacationing with his family in Miami Beach. Some of my playing on this track is in the style of Zachary Breaux, and I dedicate this song to his memory.

"Arizona Highways"

I first heard this song when I sat in on a recording session in Hollywood to listen to the rock band “California” record their first album. The vocalist was a friend of mine, Tony Grasso, the bass player from the Cascades (“Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain…”) I’ve been performing this song as well as two others from this album ever since, and decided to put all three on this CD. This song never took off for Tony and California, but I’m hoping for better luck! The author is currently unknown.


This Jorgen Ingmann instrumental was covered by many guitar bands such as the Ventures and Davie Allan & the Arrows. My favorite version is that of Al Caola. You’ll always hear a lot of Al Caola in my playing because he was one of my early influences.

"Our Love Is On The Faultline"

This was another song I “borrowed” from California (see Arizona Highways). As far as I know, California was the first to record this song in 1982, but about 4 months after they finished their session, the same song was released by Crystal Gayle, who had a big #1 hit with the song in 1983! My version is similar to the way it was recorded by California.


This Latin jazz instrumental written by Carlos Santana was also a big hit for sax-man Gato Barbieri. One night I was getting ready to play a folk song, so I had my Martin acoustic guitar strapped on, when I got a request for a jazz tune. I ended up playing the song (Europa) on the acoustic guitar, and I was impressed by the way it sounded, so I continue to play this song and a few other jazz songs on the acoustic guitar.

"Cowboy Swing"

This western swing tune was written by Mike Fleming and recorded by his band New West from Santa Clarita, California. They are one of my favorite bands. They write and perform songs in the style of the old “cowboy” bands such as Sons of the Pioneers and Gene Autrey, and their 3-part vocals are awesome. Their guitarist, Raul Reynoso, is an accomplished gypsy jazz guitarist as well as a great western swing player, and has been a big influence on the way I play my western songs. I perform five songs by this band. Line Rider’s Waltz, another New West song, is also on this CD.

"Pick Up The Pieces"

This song was originally recorded by the Average White Band, and then covered by Jeff Golub & Avenue Blue and by Candy Dulfer. My version is sort of a mix of all three styles.

"Hickory Wind"

Gram Parsons wrote and recorded Hickory Wind for the Byrds' "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" album in 1968, which launched the country rock movement. A lot of musicians were getting tired of the loud psychedelic music that was popular at this time, and wanted to get back to the earth and all things natural. Acoustic music and country music was a natural way to go, and the Byrds were soon followed by many other rock bands performing country music. I’ve loved the whole album ever since it came out, and play several songs from this album.

"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"

When I heard Jimmy Smith do this as a jazz organ instrumental on one of his CD’s, I learned it and played it on the organ at some of my shows. When I gave up keyboard playing, I didn’t want to give up such a good arrangement, so I learned it on the guitar in the Jimmy Smith style.

"Big Rock Candy Mountain"

I had heard Harry McClintock singing this song many times as I was growing up, but I didn’t start performing the song until I heard it done by John Hartford in the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” movie soundtrack and the ensuing “Down From The Mountain” tour and CD. This is one of my favorite folk songs.

"Stars On The Water"

Here is another song I “borrowed” from California’s 1982 album project (along with Arizona Highways and Our Love Is On The Faultline). When I found out the song was written by Rodney Crowell, I bought his album and became a Rodney Crowell fan, I found out that Jimmy Buffett also recorded this song. My version is a mixture of all three styles.

"Moonlight In Vermont"

This song has been performed by dozens of major artists such as Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Rosemary Clooney. My favorite version is by the Johnny Smith Quintet recorded in 1952. Johnny Smith (along with Chet Atkins and Les Paul) was one of my early influences, and I still consider Johnny Smith one of my favorite jazz guitarists. His arrangement was once published in Guitar Player magazine, and that is the arrangement you’ll hear on this CD.


One of the first hits by `70’s super-group Chicago, this song sounds as good now as it did 35 years ago when I first heard Chicago at a concert at Penn State University. I’ve been a fan ever since. Their original guitarist, Terry Kath, was one of the greatest rock guitar players ever. It was a sad day when he died in 1978 at the age of 32 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

"Bluegrass Flatpicking Guitar Medley"

This is a medley of Wildwood Flower, Under The Double Eagle, and Yackety Sax. I have always enjoyed Roy Clark’s version of Under The Double Eagle, so I added a few extra songs to the medley and sort-of play the whole thing in the style of Roy Clark. I enjoy hearing songs “picked out” on the guitar, especially when they’re fast and present a challenge.

"Happy Together"

This is one of the songs I do in my show that goes over best with the audience. Everybody seems to remember this song and relates to it by singing along, dancing, or moving to the beat. This 1967 song is included because it was a real challenge to sing correctly. I still can't sing it as good as Howard because I got too much "old folkie" in me, but I'm still listening to Turtles records and trying to improve! Many people haven’t heard of Turtles lead singer Howard Kaylan, but he is one of the finest male rock vocalists of all time. His pitch is right-on, his delivery is casual and clear, and he really connects when he sings. Give a listen to the Turtles “20 Greatest Hits” on the Rhino label.

"Line Rider's Waltz"

This is another song written by Mike Fleming and recorded by New West. I wanted more variety on this CD, and this song had a nostalgic sound that makes me think of simpler days.

"Before You Accuse Me”

This was originally a Bo Diddley song, but I started playing it when I heard the great job Eric Clapton did with it. I included this blues selection because many people still think of me mainly as a blues guitarist.

"The Heat Is On"

This 1985 Glenn Frey song has a great dance beat. I wanted to show I can play for dancing as well as concerts, so I included this piece on the CD. It is one of the best of a series of good songs that came out in the mid-eighties.

"Little Boxes"

Melvina Reynolds wrote "Little Boxes" in 1961 while driving through Daly City on her way to a gig in San Francisco. The opening line “Little boxes on a hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky” is what I think of every time I drive through the South and North County areas surrounding San Diego where a big construction boom is filling up all the empty land until some day it will be wall-to-wall houses from Phoenix to San Diego and then up the coast to Los Angeles. This song is as appropriate now as it was when Pete Seeger made it a big hit during the 1960’s folk boom.

"Born To Be Wild"

Originally this CD had 20 songs on it. I was just about ready when my friend, Danny, said he might have a gig if we could play some “biker” songs. I was riding a motorcycle in 1968 when this song came out, so I know first hand how this song captures the excitement of the ride. I thought that it would round out the variety of the CD, so I managed to record it and get it on the CD. It’s a good thing, because I couldn’t think of a name for this project when there were 20 songs, but when it became “21,” that reminded me of a friendly card game, hence the name “Lucky 21.”

"Vandrell Stomp"

Although this is the last song, and a simple song, it is also my favorite because I had originally recorded this song in 1966, and it was the first time I heard my music played on the radio. From that point on I was hooked on the music business, and the rest is history! An interesting note is that I still have the very same 1966 Fender Pro-Reverb amplifier that I used on the original recording, so I recorded this 2005 version using the same amp! I also have a 1966 Harmony guitar and a 1978 Fender Telecaster. Both of these guitars have a fantastic surf sound, but I settled on my new Carvin guitar because it has almost any sound I want.

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