By Jeffrey Moellering
To categorize Dave Mason as rock & roll royalty is undoubtedly an understatement. The British rocker was a founding member of Traffic in the late 1960s, then forged his own path in the US, working with artists through the years as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Mama Cass Elliot, Graham Nash, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, and even Michael Jackson.Dave took a few minutes from his busy current US tour to speak with Tampa Bay Music News about his storied music career and what lies ahead.
We asked Dave what got him started in Worcester, England while at a very young age, and for him there was no single revelation, simply saying “It started as a hobby, and seemed like a fun thing to do. My influences were the instrumental bands, The Shadows, The Ventures, and Duane Eddy. You could hear them on Armed Forces Radio and Radio Luxembourg”.
Mason also got to see the early greats play in England as a teenager, like Little Richard and The Beatles. He picked up a guitar, started copying records and quickly became a professional musician, then was soon hired as the tour manager for the Spencer Davis Group, where he met an equally young Steve Winwood, with whom he formed the seminal progressive rock band Traffic in 1967.
Mason’s classic Traffic song “Feelin’ Alright?” was written while only 20, and has been famously covered by Joe Cocker, dozens of other artists through the years, and is firmly established as a standard in the great rock & roll songbook. We wondered what it must have been like as a formative artist during such a moment in history, having a hand in forging the zeitgeist of a generation, to which Dave mused “I was young, only 20 – so anything was possible!”
Dave is also busy publishing a memoir which is set for release in May of this year. We asked him if there was an impetus for writing a book at this time, and he chuckled that “I finally did it after years of my fans telling me that ‘You’ve got to write a book!’” Mason says that there’s no setting the record straight or dirt to dish, simply offering reflections of a career in music that spans nearly 60 years, that he believes people will enjoy.
We asked Dave what keeps him inspired and going strong after playing with all the greats and having accomplished so much in music. He paused and offered, “Well, I love playing! I have a great band, and as long as I can walk, talk, and chew gum I’ll play music – that’s what I do.” Mason’s hard-won successes have afforded the benefit of a well-appointed tour bus with all the creature comforts, which allows him to stay rested and take his show on the road, while continuing to deliver peak performances to his endearing fans.
The current tour is called “Endangered Species”, about which I suggested that it seems a very poignant title. Wondering whether there was a specific reason for that name, Mason replied that “I thought it was a bit ironic, funny, and I’m 76. It’s pretty prescient, considering we just lost three people, Jeff Beck, Christie McVie, and David Crosby.”
Given Dave Mason’s outsized influence on the trajectory of rock music, it’s a great chance to see the rock & roll hall of famer still firmly in stride, and as long as he’s still “Feelin’ Alright”, you can be sure he’ll keep spreading that message throughout his current Endangered Species Tour. Mason’s Saturday, February 4th performance at the beautiful Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater still has selected seating available, presenting a unique opportunity to witness a legend perform his catalog of rock classics.