B-List Band of the Week: Dave Mason

The B-List Band of the Week feature returns today after an extensive hiatus. Again, the point here is not to present second-rate writing about second-rate musicians, but rather to briefly highlight artists existing out of the spotlight, perhaps in an attempt to identify why they are so located. Last time, the focus was on The Outlaws, a group that, on paper, had all the makings of one Lynyrd Skynyrd but failed to materialize as such. Today, it’s on Dave Mason, a guitarist and singer frequently on the fringe of rock and roll’s main scene, particularly in the 1970s, and who continues to perform today.

In recanting Mason’s story, it should first be acknowledged that he’s unlikely to have gained the notoriety that he has without his association with the band Traffic. As it were, Mason actually came to work with Jim Capaldi before either became involved with Steve Winwood, when Mason and Capaldi became members of the same band in the mid-1960s. Mason would meet Winwood when the former became road manager for the latter’s Spencer Davis Group, eventually joining him, Capaldi, and Chris Wood as founding members of Traffic. Mason’s first hit would be the band’s second single, “Hole in My Shoe,” a Harrisonian-Indian pop-psychedelic bit that would eventually appear on the band’s self-titled release in 1968, its second album. Between Traffic’s first album, 1967’s Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Traffic, Mason would leave and rejoin the band, adding another Britpop-style song in “You Can All Join In” and his biggest hit, “Feelin’ Alright?”, to the ’68 effort.

Mason was out of Traffic for the second and final time in 1968, making his way to Los Angeles and into one of the greatest and most embryonically formative touring bands ever recorded, Delaney & Bonnie. Keep reading…

B-List Band of the Week: The Outlaws

Nobody wants to spend time reading second-rate material about second-rate material, so I should clarify that what I want to do with this is highlight groups that are good, but for certain reasons, never emerged onto the national scene. I’m calling them B-list bands not because they necessarily deserve their place outside of the spotlight, but because they are outside of the spotlight, and also because it seemed to alliterate well in my head.

The model I have in mind right now describes artists that started out very similarly to, but ultimately failed to match the trajectory of another that made it big.

First up is The Outlaws. Formed in 1967 in Tampa, by the early 70s they had developed into a triple-guitar-attack Southern Rock band with an emphasis on a strong live performance. Sound familiar? Compare Lynyrd Skynyrd: formed in 1965 in Jacksonville, developed triple-guitar-attack Southern Rock by the early 70s, and a reputation built on strong live performances, catapulting themselves to long-running national prominence.

Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant even helped them get their first record deal– after The Outlaws opened for them, Van Zant apparently announced to all in attendance, including their Arista rep, that “If you don’t sign The Outlaws, you’re the dumbest music person I’ve ever met.”  Keep reading (and start listening)…