Electric String Band
Interviewed on December 31, 2018
Denny Laine has had a very long successful career in the music business. He first garnered fame as a founding member of the Moody Blues and sang on “Go Now” the bands first hit. Perhaps he is most known for being a founding member of Wings and working with Paul and Linda McCartney. Laine continues to tour and work on music to this day. He will be playing the Sportsman’s Tavern on January 16 with a show where he will play selections from the Moody Blues, Wings and some other things he is known for. We had a chance to talk with Denny and find out what he is up to before his big show here.
RSC: Other than touring do you have other projects lined up so far in 2019?
Denny Laine: Well, I’ve got a few things I’m doing at the moment. One of them is a musical that I’ve been doing with the Fredonia University that’s up in your part of the woods. Called Arctic Sun, it’s something I did with the students there. We’re hoping to do a few more of those around the country. It’s an environmental piece, I want to continue that.
I’ve got a couple of things, album in the can that’s waiting to release. Also, well generally speaking I just want to tour as much as possible with this new show. It’s the Band on the Run Show plus the Magnificent Moodies, which is the first Moody Blues album which I am on obviously. And that’s it. So whatever comes our way. Hopefully going to Europe with it or South America. We’re working on a lot of things for abroad.
RSC: What can one expect attending the show here in Buffalo on Jan 16?
DL: It’s just the two albums you know. That’s it and plus a few other songs I’m kind of known for with things in the early Moody Blues.
RSC: Well you played Buffalo a few times over the years. Do you remember anything about your first visit here ever?
DL: Yeah the Sportsman’s Tavern I’ve done three or four times. We’ve always had a good time at Sportsman’s. You know they’re good people, a good crowd and good people that run it. So that’s it really. We just like doing that, as far as the east coast, I always end up doing that show, I don’t think we’ve done it with this actual show. We’ve done Band on the Run before there. Like I say I know the people at Fredonia University. A guy called Armand Petri is involved with the university there, he’s a big producer. He’s worked with The Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs and he’s a friend of mine and he helped me put this musical together out there. So hopefully we’ll be going back up there as well soon to continue that.
RSC: I was doing some research, and I don’t know how true this is that’s why I’m gonna ask the man who would know the answer here, is it true you only came to the U.S. for one tour during Wings entire history?
DL: I suppose if it says so I mean yeah. Most of our work was done in Europe. We’ve had a few band changes, you know lineups and quite a few different albums with different people. But we’ve never really toured a lot. It was more, a lot of recording. And the major tour of course was the world tour which was 1976 and yeah so I mean America is always kind of been our second home as far as fans. We’ve always had a great appreciation in the fans over there. We would have toured more probably but you just had band lineup changes and things like that. So it kind of held us back a lot for going on the road in some ways.
RSC: Yeah that was kind of surprising because I figured you guys probably would have been even bigger had you had been done more touring over here.
DL: Well you know you just reminded me really. Because as I say, we would do an album and then we would tour it. But usually it was as I say, it was in Europe to start with. But yeah, you’re right, dead right.
RSC: What do you consider your most gratifying experience in the music business?
DL: Well of course, our first success with the Moody Blues. You know that was the goal in the early days to have a number one and we did. So that took a while, a lot longer than people singing and just arrived on the planet. We actually became a blues band first, called the M & B Five, which turned into Moody Blues. M & B, based on the initials of a brewery that were going to sponsor us at the time, Mitchell and Butlers it was called, and that fell through so we ended up being the Moody Blues.
We toured with Chuck Berry and we went to the top of the charts as a result of, that was in England. Then we toured with The Beatles, then we went with their management. Worked with Jimmy Hendrix one night and then with this band I had called The String Band, Electric String Band. And Paul saw me doing that show, so I think that probably led to him asking me to join up with him. We already knew each other from before so that’s probably why it happened.
RSC: What would you consider the greatest song you involved with in the recording studio?
DL: You know it is a weird question for people who’ve done so much recording writing and performing but I would say as far as from the point of view of well “Go Now” obviously was the main first one for us with the Moody Blues and that was a huge hit. “Mull of Kintyre” would be the one with Wings because I co-wrote that with Paul and it was all over Europe it was a number one. It sold a lot of records at the time. I think more than anything up to that date for a single. So yeah that would be probably the two highlights there.
RSC: Can you tell us about your most recent recording?
DL: The recent thing I’ve put out is a vinyl single called ‘Meant to Be’. And it was to see how this band that I’m working with worked in the studio in a way. And we’re calling the band Moody Wing Band because those are the two albums we’re doing. So it was a start of some possible recordings that we’re going to do. So there you go, that was that.
RSC: I hear you have tons of great stories to tell. Can you give us a funny one from your days in Wings?
DL: Well I don’t know about funny ones. We’ve had a lot of experiences you know traveling around with other musicians a lot of the time. We’ve worked with people, especially towards the end, with people like Stevie Wonder and Carl Perkins. Carl Perkins was a funny guy and we admired him a lot. He was like from the days of Elvis and Johnny Cash and all those people. It was a very fun day we had with him.
Mike Batt who is a guy from England was the producer of a project called the Wombles of Wimbledon Common. It was a like a Care Bears type of cartoony thing and he had a lot of success with it. He turned up at this island where we were recording in a studio for George Martin and we were all having dinner and he decided to play a song that he wrote for Paul and Linda. And he said, “On the Isle of Montserrat, I will never forget…” and then he forgot the rest of the song (laughs). We all fell about laughing because he wasn’t in awe of us. He showed us this thing on the guitar where he was like flicking his fingers on and off and it sounded like a guitar echo machine. In the old days we used to use a thing called the Watkins Copycat, which is basically a tape that went round a couple of spools and repeated the note slightly after the time you played.Well he, being you know a good old country boy starts playing this and he said this is what we thought you were doing. And he’s playing it and it sounded exactly like a Watkins Copycat. So we were like blown away by this. I said, “Are you kidding me? “He said, “Yeah we didn’t have any of that stuff. We just thought that’s what you were doing.” So here’s this amazing guitar player who could just copy everything.
I’ve found this out from a guy called Taj Mahal a couple of years ago who I bumped into to, and he this is his single that I put out. And he said, “You’ve still got your sound.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well we were just as interested in your sound, like you were as interested in our sound. We studied you guys just like you studied us. And I never even thought of it like that before. So when you’re working with people like Carl Perkins and Stevie Wonder, we are kind of in awe of them, but they’re in awe of us too. So it’s always a good working relationship. You always end up doing something a bit fresher you know, you try something new and it’s good fun. Especially Stevie Wonder, who’s another one. He’s just the greatest guy to have a laugh with. And he had a very funny sense of humor too. So you do a lot of stuff. Same with Ringo when he came out there. So in other words we meet a lot of great people who we admire and continue to work with them as much as we can. If that explains anything (laughs).
RSC: You have done so much work over your career is there anything you still hope to accomplish in Music?
DL: Well I mean always there’s something new that you want to accomplish and never know what it is until it happens in some ways. Because what things lead to, one thing leads to another. I’ve never really been to South America and other markets I would love to go and see. I’ve been to Russia a few times. I’d like to go back there or Scandinavia, you know England obviously. So that’s really what I want to accomplish this year or next year I should say, it’s nearly next year. That’s about it really. You know just go with the flow and things happen. That’s usually been the way with me.