Archive for the ‘Mickey Raphael’ Category
Happy birthday Mickey Raphael, from Salt Lake City!
Thanks to Brad Wheeler, of KRCL Radio in Salt Lake City for sharing the news:
by decree of Mayor Ralph Becker, in Honor of both his birthday and the continued support he has bestowed to SLC and it citizens … Today is Mr Mickey Raphael Day in SLC. Please spread the word
Mickey Raphael joined Brad Wheeler as host on his Radio Show on Utah Public Radio on August 28, 2013, and thanks so much to Brad for the good news that the show was recorded, and he sent a link!
This is a great show; you will love it. This is Mickey’s 4th time to join Brad in his Salt Lake studio, and you the show is so enjoyable because you can feel the mutual respect and friendship. They love music and they love to talk about it. The music that DJ Mickey selected were theme-related, kind of a seven-degrees-of-separation thing, artists and musicians musically connected. It’s a great selection of music, some I was familiar with and some I was happy to be introduced to.
I couldn’t figure out how to embed their player here (I gotta get out the door and head to work), so just go to the Studio’s page here.
Mickey Raphael will be guest host on Brad Wheeler’s radio show today, on Utah public radio station KRCL. I guess it’s only fair, in as much as Brad took over Mickey’s job (for a few songs), at Willie Nelson’s Birthday Party/ West, Texas Fire Fighters Fund Raiser last April. According to Brad, he was hanging out on stage with Mickey, when Mickey handed him his harmonica and told him to play on some gospel tunes. (The guy can play, btw.)
Mickey Raphael will be on at 4:00 mountain standard time today. You do the math to figure out what that means to you. The station streams it’s shows; to listen to Mickey today go to:
The name of the show is Drive Time with Brad Wheeler. The radio is listener-supported, so feel free to make a donation to them, if you are so inclined.
And here’s the radio’s telephone number, if you want to try to call in and ask Mickey a question. No promises! It’s not a call in show, but who knows, maybe you can ask Mickey a question. If anyone is upset and asks where you got the number, don’t give them my name, unless they are happy you called, then it’s okay. KRCL -1-800-359-9191
And the e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Carol Cling
Follow the leader.
After four decades as a member of Willie Nelson’s musical family, Mickey Raphael’s pretty good at that game.
He has to be — because that’s what playing with Nelson is all about.
“We follow Willie,” explains Raphael, who’ll be playing harmonica, as usual, when Nelson and Family check into The Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ Reynolds Hall on Tuesday night.
It’s hardly their first Smith Center performance, however.
Nelson was one of the headliners at the center’s starry opening gala in March 2012 — a gig Raphael remembers well.
“What a dump,” he jokes, quickly adding that Las Vegas’ new performing arts center is “as beautiful as any place I’ve ever been. It reminds me of the Kennedy Center.”
Not that the venue makes any difference to Raphael and his colleagues.
“It doesn’t matter where we play,” Raphael says during a telephone interview from his Nashville home. “That’s inconsequential. It can be a bar full of drunks or The Smith Center,” he says, pausing expertly before delivering the following punch line:
“I might wear a nicer shirt if it’s The Smith Center.”
But seriously, folks, Raphael and his bandmates — including Nelson’s sister Bobbie on piano, drummer Billy English, percussionist Paul English and bassist Kevin Smith — have other concerns.
Because, once the 80-year-old Nelson uncorks “Whiskey River,” his traditional opener, “he just does what comes off the top of his head,” Raphael says. “We don’t need a set list. He starts the songs off” — and they’re off.
Raphael and his bandmates know there’ll be the usual array of Willie Nelson classics, from “Funny How Time Slips Away” to “Night Life” to “Crazy,” along with a variety of other tunes that demonstrate his eclectic musical approach.
“It’s a melting pot,” Raphael says, citing a musical itinerary that ranges from country to pop to jazz. “I hate putting names on a genre. There’s good music and bad.”
Whatever they’re playing, however, “the approach is the same,” according to Raphael. “Less is more. Keep it simple.”
Easier said than done, perhaps, but Raphael’s had plenty of time to figure out Willie’s way of doing things — once he found himself a member of Nelson’s musical family.
Before joining Nelson’s band, the Texas-born harmonica player didn’t know much about country music, having grown up listening to folk, rock and the blues.
But when the late Darrell Royal, then football coach at the University of Texas, invited Raphael to join him and some friends at a post-game picking party, the guest list included Nelson.
And after hearing Raphael play at the party, Nelson invited the self-described “hippie kid with an Afro” to sit in with him sometime.
That was in 1973.
“I tell people, I was never officially hired — and I’ve never been officially fired,” Raphael says. “I was never asked to leave, so I stayed.”
And while “not too many bands have a harmonica player,” Raphael has managed to play alongside everyone from U2 to Elton John, Paul Simon to Emmylou Harris.
But it just wouldn’t be a Willie Nelson concert without Raphael trading solos with Bobbie Nelson or chugging along with the beat.
Nelson celebrated his 80th birthday in April, but shows no signs of changing his on-the-road-again style — on stage or off.
With Nelson, “what you see is what you get,” Raphael says.
As for his seemingly permanent membership in Nelson’s musical entourage, Raphael has a simple explanation.
“I know how to listen,” he says. “And I’m good at what I do.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272
by: Allison Geyer
Mickey Raphael once asked Willie Nelson when he’d get to stand in the middle of the stage. Nelson turned to the harmonica player and said, “Any time you want.”
But Raphael never wanted to be a bandleader. Instead, he has been standing next to a legend for 40 years, trading solos with a country music icon and becoming one himself.
Raphael, Nelson and the rest of the Family (as the band is known) are rambling into La Crosse on Wednesday on their legendary tour bus Honeysuckle Rose.
The last time Willie Nelson and Family played La Crosse was March 2010, when the band drew a sold-out crowd of 3,000 to the La Crosse Center. Raphael remembers enjoying the venue and its proximity to the Mighty Mississippi, but admits that gigs tend to blend together after four decades of playing 130 cities a year.
“It’s been a boring 40 years,” he joked. “I’ve gotten to go around the world several times, and I’ve worked for a benevolent boss. It’s fun to come to work every day.”
A sought-after session musician known for his smooth harp licks and “less is more” philosophy he learned from Nelson, Raphael has worked with just about everyone in the business, from Lou Reed to Elton John to U2.
“Every kid has a harmonica,” he said. “It’s an instrument I fell in love with. I was a terrible guitar player, but I loved music. (Harmonica) just came easy to me.”
Raphel owns several hundred harmonicas, or harps, as they’re called by serious players. Each instrument has 10 holes and plays 20 notes and is tuned to a specific key signature. Raphael always hits the stage with a full set of 12 harps — one for each note in the chromatic scale — and switches between instruments as needed during a set.
“Some are tuned to minor keys, some sound like accordions,” he said. “I even have a bass harmonica that sounds like a foghorn.”
His stylings on the harp helped define a genre, but when he first met Nelson, Raphael “knew nothing about country music” and had only ever heard one Willie Nelson record in his life.
It was the early 1970s, and Raphael was a young hippie kid from Dallas who grew up idolizing The Stones and Bob Dylan and dreaming of playing in New York clubs. He fell in with the Red Headed Stranger by chance, and after an impromptu jam session, Raphael was invited to go out east with the band in 1973.
By that time, Nelson was already famous as a songwriter. He had in earlier years penned hits like “Crazy” for Patsy Cline and “Pretty Paper” for Roy Orbison, but he was just starting to gain popularity as a singer himself with records such as “Red Headed Stranger” and “Stardust,” Raphael said.
The fame and notoriety grew through the 1980s and 1990s. Described by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws as “possibly America’s most famous and beloved cannabis smoker,” Nelson has actively campaigned to legalize pot. He has spoken out against the war, created his own sustainable biofuel called BioWillie and has played every year at Farm Aid, a benefit he co-founded in 1985 to raise awareness about farmers losing their land to the mortgage crisis.
Arguably, Nelson is as famous for his left-wing political activism as he is for his unique voice and guitar sound, but the band keeps politics and music separate, Raphael said.
“Willie is liberal, some of the guys are conservative, but we all support Willie,” he said.
And he supports them, too.
“The life I love is making music with my friends.” Nelson wrote those lyrics on the back of an airline barf bag and won a Grammy for the song, “On the Road Again” in 1981.
Those friends became his family and his constant companions over the musician’s career. Four decades later and the family is still together.
“Willie’s very loyal to us,” Raphael said. “He’s very generous, but he’s the boss.”
by Kirk Baird
Forty years is a long commitment. Especially for a musician.
But even after decades of playing harmonica in Willie Nelson’s band, Mickey Raphael has never left the country music legend to play full-time with someone else.
“Being with somebody as cool as Willie, I get to watch him play and listen to him play every night,” Raphael said in a phone interview. “And then I have the freedom to do other projects when I have the time. I’ve met a lot of people through him … who like what I do and have asked me to play.”
The “freedom” is what Raphael jokingly refers to as an “open marriage” with Nelson, which allows him to play with other artists — just so long as he’s available whenever a Nelson tour or recording session beckons. Raphael is on the road again with Nelson and his backing band for a summer tour, which brings them to Centennial Terrace in Sylvania on Thursday.
It’s an arrangement that’s worked to Raphael’s advantage, financially and otherwise, affording him opportunities to record and play with a disparate group of artists, including Kenny Chesney, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Emmy Lou Harris, U2, Motley Crue, Wynton Marsalis, Neil Young, Vince Gill, Blue Oyster Cult, and the Mavericks.
It all started by happenstance in 1973, at a Dallas hotel room party thrown by Darrell Royal, the legendary University of Texas head football coach and a country music fan. A Dallas native who played harmonica in Texas folk artist B.W. Stevenson’s band, Raphael was invited to the party by Royal, and found himself playing alongside Nelson and Charley Pride in an informal jam session.
Raphael knew nothing about country music, but Nelson was impressed enough to invite him to sit in with him and his band at other gigs when schedules aligned.
Raphael didn’t miss the opportunity.
“I saw Willie was playing around Dallas and I just drove down there to sit in with him,” he said. “I was totally lost on the songs but it was fun. He is such a great musician, it was really exciting to play with him. And he said, ‘You know, we’re going to New York in a couple of months, why don’t you go with us.’ So that kind of started it. In that couple of months’ time I started showing up at other gigs and kind of segueing into the band, really. Jimmy Day, his steel [guitar] player, was leaving the band and there was a hole there and [Nelson] wasn’t going to replace him with another steel player. So my timing was good.”
Jumping from occasional guest artist to permanent fixture in Nelson’s band required that Raphael learn the material and, equally important for a sideman, how to listen.
“Which is probably the hardest part about playing, figuring out when to play,” he said. “What to play is kind of a no-brainer. You can get by and play one note or whatever. It’s just knowing when to play, when to stay out of the singer’s way and the other guitar players and the other musicians, and to make it count. It’s like you’re having a conversation and a bunch of people are talking. Not everybody talks at the same time.
“We worked with Grady Martin, who’s probably one of the greatest studio guitar players on the planet. He played on more hit records than anybody. And he was in our band for about 10 years and finally one day he looked at me and said, ‘Man, smoke a cigarette. Take that damn thing out of your mouth, you play too much.’ And that was the best advice I ever got. I wish he’d told me 10 years earlier.”
Like many players, the harmonica wasn’t Raphael’s first choice — “I was a terrible guitar player” first, he said — but after a friend of his dad’s gave him the instrument as a teenager he gravitated toward it. A concert by blues-rock outfit Canned Heat a few years later proved to be the inspiration he needed: “I was able to play a lick, play something a little bluesy that made sense, something I probably heard that night, and it just clicked.”
His early harmonica influences were legends Paul Butterfield, Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Slim Harpo, and James Cotton, and later famed country music harmonicists, Nashville studio musician Charlie McCoy and Dallas-born Don Brooks of Waylon Jennings’ band who became a mentor to Raphael.
“These were guys who set the bar and set it pretty damn high,” he said.
Of course, he learned from Nelson. “He taught me one thing, that less is more in music,” he said. “Don’t overdo it. Say what you can with the least amount of effort and notes.”
After four decades of shared experiences on the road, Raphael said he has a book of Nelson stories he’d like to write one day. Not that the 80-year-old singer-songwriter is even close to slowing down, much less stopping.
“He’ll retire when he dies,” Raphael said. “There’ll be a funeral when he retires.”
But when the end comes for Nelson, Raphael said he will remember his longtime friend through the words of an equally famous singer.
“That he did it his way.”
Willie Nelson will play Thursday at Centennial Terrace 5773 Centennial Rd. in Sylvania. Gates open at 6:30 p.m and tickets are $34.50, $61.50, and $71.50. Information: 419-381-8851 or etix.com.
Contact Kirk Baird at: email@example.com or 419-724-6734.