One is an accomplished English singer-songwriter and guitarist, whose band, Traffic, was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame about 14 years ago; the other is a renowned American guitarist known for his work in Booker T. & the M.G.'s and The Blues Brothers band.
With a repertoire like that (in actuality we're just skimming off the top), it's no wonder why Dave Mason and Steve Cropper decided to collaborate with one another and play each other's songs. The Blues City Journal spoke with these two musical dudes about this new professional partnership:
When was the first time you performed with Dave Mason?
Cropper: I don’t think I ever played with him until (a few months) ago. But I knew him. I met him through an artist I was producing at first. And then I saw him again when he was out with Fleetwood Mac and he hung out at the hotel after our show. We were all staying at the Tokyo Hilton and saw each other in a bar and went nuts. I hadn’t seen him in a long time. Dave came here playing the winery in Nashville. I don’t go see shows too often. I don’t feel comfortable if somebody else is on the stage and I’m not. But I was amazed (by Mason). I knew he was good, but I didn’t know he had written all those hit songs.
You're a self-taught guitarist. But do you know how to read music?
Cropper: Noooo. I tried! (laughs) I really did work hard at it. I did learn enough about it, but I had forgotten all that way back in the middle '60s. But I did get where I could take stuff in a slow fashion. Never could speed read. I still kinda know enough about it to know what it is, but I can’t read it or read enough to interpret or anything.
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Even still, you have quite the resume of work and earned a lot of recognition from your peers.
Cropper: I know! I guess it comes with being so good in sessions. I have been and I’m very proud of it. I’ve played on a lot of albums and I’ve played on a lot of No. 1 records. Well, there has to be something to that. [...] And I came by it honestly. It’s not something for nothing. But I do get heralded as a musician that I think is a little bit overstated, but there’s no need for everybody to know the truth (laughs). It was on job training. It would be no different than a kid going with his daddy, whose a plumber, and learning how to put pipes together. Just like job training, you learn by watching other people do it
Steve said the first time you played together was quite recently. Like a month or so ago?
Mason: Yes! We were rehearsing for a week at a friend of mine's farm in North Carolina. When people talk about the British Invasion, so to speak, I always say it's an American story because all the music that we learned from all comes from America -- the blues, R&B, soul, gospel. When I was 17 or 18 years old, I listened to Booker T. & the M.G.'s. That band was stacked. We all listened to that stuff. For me to be playing with (Cropper), it's more of a personal thing. It's like going full-circle for me.
What's most exciting for you about this collaboration?
Mason: For me, what is amazing, more than anything, is that so few people here in America know who the hell he is at all. It's a chance for me to use whatever fanbase I have that's there and sort of bring that forward. I think that's just great. That's my reason for doing this. And also I've been doing 'Dave' since I was 17 years old -- I'm 72 now -- so I'd like to try something a little different. To share this with someone who was a great inspiration to me is amazing.
Have you ever reached a point in your career where you felt things were too dull? Especially now since you've been doing it for so long?
Mason: I'm a working musician. I love playing. The travelling is a little much, a little more wearing at this age. Playing, peforming... (laughs) in a world of virtual reality, I get to do something real. Live and real. That's irreplaceable.