Long Hot Summer Nights

Long Hot Summer Nights

Libby Titus was (and still is) to my mind an exotic creature: tall, fragile, beautiful, always dressed in the most remarkably gorgeous designer clothes, and she wore them like a noble, tragic waif. Compared to her I felt like, and was a geek even though I too had some pretty high level fashion myself. Libby was close to Maria Muldaur, and Carly Simon ( the famous reference to her in one of her songs), and had been the partner of Dr. John, Levon Helm, and the wife of Donald Fagen.

We were close in those days, both of us struggling in wild Hollywood, and we spent a great deal of time together. I absolutely loved Libby and even tried to produce a record on her years before I became a producer.

I wrote Long Hot Summer Nights about us: a slight fable in which we would dress up in our finest, she tall and lean, me short and funny—and travel around town in her ragtop Benz, flirting with all the boys of Hollywood.  

The song was included on my last album for Warner Brothers: Strange Company, produced up in Seattle by Mike Flicker. It became a sizable summertime hit up in the northwest. That album was the beginning of my exploration into rock and orchestral music together, and was a blast to make.

I’ll always remember my times with Libby as sweet, good, fun, and inspiring. I hope she’s well living back east, and I hope she’s living in splendor.

Long Hot Summer Nights  was a good story, even if we didn’t really switch the men at the end….

Spring is Here

Spring is Here

Up in Topanga Canyon in the early ‘70s, when spring came, it was an incredibly beautiful time. I lived on the side of a hill, surrounded by steep, fierce mountains, many of which had trails only known to us locals to get up to the fire roads and the endless trails to the ocean. Never have I loved a place like I loved those hills: I walked them, I planted gardens in them, I rode my horse through the chaparral, across creeks, up slopes, through fields of mustard as high as my stirrups, I had dogs, cats, hawks, coyotes, everyone living around me.

But spring brought every shade of green to the usually brown and rocky mountains. And everywhere, the scent of all sage, manzanita, toyon, coffee berry, ceanothus, California poppies, lupines by the road and up in the hills, buckwheat and if you were lucky the wonderful sticky orange monkeyflowers.

Perhaps when websites like All Music and such proclaim that I never ‘made it’ as a solo artist, it might be because in my early twenties, I spent my time in two places only: on the road playing gigs, and on the mountain planting, walking, learning and loving the canyon. I might have preferred it up there… Perhaps I should have been in town more, and done more of the things that were recommended to a young, slightly quirky and stupendously headstrong artist. But to this day, I watch the hawks, and celebrate the first warm day of spring, and feel the wind, even here in the suburbs. I have no regrets about the vast amount of time spent up there, what I learned and how it shaped everything I do—the only regret is that I don’t live up in the chaparral anymore!

Nik Venet, who produced my third album ‘Wendy Waldman’ also lived in Topanga with his wife Valerie. They too loved the canyon, and understood my passion only too well. Nik was far wiser than me and I wish I’d had the opportunity to tell him that this particular cd, as troubled and crazy a child as I was, was honest, true, and fun. He hired the great Ron Tutt to play drums—Ron who had played with Elvis Presley, for example, and the great percussionist Emile Richards for this particular track. Nik also trusted my people: Kenny Edwards, Peter Bernstein, Karla Bonoff, Jennifer Warnes, engineer Michael Boshears, and…another canyon resident, someone you don’t know but who was and is one of the finest musicians of my generation, a gentleman by the name of Steve Ferguson. Steve was an extraordinary scholar, pianist both classical and ragtime, guitarist, songwriter and thinker. He was among the very first people David Geffen signed to Asylum, but alas, his music was reinterpreted from its pure and brilliant solo perfection to a hybrid and less focused band setting. He was also a stupendously sophisticated, well educated and highly gifted black musician who found himself in the early days of the California Folk rock movement, which did not serve him well. Among Steve Ferguson’s admirers to this day: George Winston, Linda Ronstadt, Jennifer Warnes, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, ME. I’ve always loved this great artist, who retired from the pop world and spent his life composing and studying privately. His son, by the way, is Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who is experiencing wonderful success these days.

But there is no one in this world like Steve- I hope some day just to show a few of his songs. They have been sung by some artists, but his own versions are masterpieces. To be discussed!

I mention these players and singers because Spring is Here is something I wrote, undoubtedly sitting on the hill above the house, looking down at the canyon, with my dulcimer on my lap. The way Nik produced it was actually an early realization of the idea of ‘world music,’ in my mind. There are layers of dulcimers, hand drums, drums but not played in pop style, and the absolutely awesome contrapuntal guitar work of Steve Ferguson.

Karla Bonoff, Jennifer Warnes and I and layers of background vocals, sometimes shifting the harmonies so that the chords took on slightly different colors. The song, over the years seems to have become something of a touchstone for some fans—something that gets pulled out in the springtime, or deep in the winter, celebrating spring. I am so grateful to the people who call it out when I do concerts. And yes, I do concerts and I do play dulcimer in them. My dulcimer is an old chromatic dulcimer built many many years ago by Joellen Lapidus and I still love it.

Happy Spring, everyone. ❤️

Listen to “Spring is Here”

Linda Ronstadt - Live in Hollywood (1980)

I was fifteen years old that year, at a new school where it seemed everyone - from students to teachers to administration - was in full rebellion. No more required Latin or French, or even a requirement to show up for class. Although when you did, class was rigorous and you were expected to carry your weight. Andrew Gold was there, so was my dear friend from birth Peter Bernstein, and many other children of people in the entertainment industry.

In those days I was playing the blues and funky mountain music (Blind Willie McTell and Doc Boggs) to my composer father’s horror. I was buying obscure blues and folk releases through Dad’s Grammy account, which explains albums by Robert Johnson King (of the Delta Blues), the Monk solo LP, and many others (when they were first released, not as reissues!). I hadn’t yet met Taj, but I would shortly. 

Our brilliant history teacher was from Arizona, a guy named Ken Waldman. He had grown up there, and had gone for his masters at Harvard in Boston. Now, this fellow loved music - and happened to know young Linda Ronstadt very well from their youth. In Boston, he spent a lot of time at the Club 47 meeting all kinds of now legendary folk pioneers. One day, he presented a little concert at our school - a lunchtime affair. He told me I should show up because I would like the band, he thought.  And out walked the Stone Poneys: beautiful young Linda Ronstadt, barefoot in a short dress and fabulous huge hoop earrings; Bobby Kimmel ever looking like the beatnik uncle; and Kenny Edwards, towering like the dark prince he was even in those early days. I LOVED this band, but ironically primarily and because of Kenny. I wanted to play like him, to phrase like him, to play WITH him, to get close to him because I felt like I was looking at my musical brother.

And I did.

But at the same time, as the soup was cooking all throughout Los Angeles in the early 70s, we were all friends. I became close with Linda Ronstadt and others because we were all basically one crowd. Some rose higher than others in the world of pop music, but we remained connected throughout and even until today, as those early years were very special.

In 1980, I was in need of work. I’d done a bunch of critically acclaimed (ah, yes) records, a bunch of hard touring, and had wound up unemployed in the heat of the emerging disco era.

I had a last minute opportunity to tour with Linda and her band, and to perform TWO OF MY OWN SOLO works in the middle of her concert, while she and the band took a break! Every night, in front of 10-30,000 people, I stood alone onstage and sang “Mad Mad Me” accompanied only by the stunning Bill Payne on piano.

We toured in Lear jets, to my everlasting terror, and we lived for three weeks in a fabulous hotel in New York City. Linda and Kenny and I at one point flew in the Lear to Three Mile Island to play with Pete Seeger. These were command performances: given my terror of flying in those days, there was no choice as I was a hired gun and if she said “sing,” I sang.

That tour was a blast, and it was a life changer for me. I subsequently wrote the music for ‘Which Way to Main Street,’ and found new footing as an artist - and also wound up going to Nashville… but that’s another story.

Linda and I are still friends. We talk occasionally, and I’m very proud of her. I was proud of her every time she took a chance and did different music, and I supported her quite vocally when she doubted.

I believe that the world has vastly underestimated the tremendous influence Linda has had on American popular culture. She took music that mainstream fans might not understand in the hands of its original creators - such as the McGarrigles and other interesting but more esoteric (like me) artists, and made these songs popular for everyone. She brought us the Eagles, she showed us great country songs, great songwriter music, great Mariachi music, great interpretations of Rolling Stones songs, Lowell George songs, Jimmy Webb songs, classical songs - you name it, on and on.

She made us see the greatly wider possibilities in music - for all of us. Oh yes, and all of this when it was a hell of a lot harder for a woman to dominate in her field.

We filmed these tunes: I think Linda and I were on some kind of diet at that point. I’ve always laughed at how I looked but I gotta say, if you have any doubt, check out these masterful musicians. Any questions? THIS is how you do it. And no protools editing (and you know I love my protools). But this is the result of hard, hard touring for years and years. That’s how Linda sold 100 million records, and how these guys could play like a freight train, and most still do. There are some here who are deeply missed but I’m glad we’ve got this document, something that used to be called… a record.

- Wendy Waldman (Northridge, CA - February 2019)

Happy New Year from WW and the Longhouse!

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Dear friends, 

Greetings from rainy Los Angeles: yes, it rarely rains, but man, when it does, it’s historic!  I hope all of you are well, or have survived the crazy last year with some positive things on your plates. All is good here, if soggy at the time of this writing, and I have a lot I would like to share with you at the beginning of this new year.

Last year was about clearing underbrush, finishing all recording of existing projects, planning and preparing for new ones, happily to be launched this year.  In the middle of that, I was totally overwhelmed to receive Folk Alliance Region West’s “Best of the West” artist award in October.  I suspect my dear friends Russ and Julie Paris of Russ and Julie’s House Concerts, Ron Sarfaty,  Steve Garvan, and some others to be responsible for this event, and it was wonderful, surprising and  very inspiring for me. 

Here is a survey of what’s going on here at the Longhouse in beautiful Northridge, California:

RECORDINGS

New WW CD: My new project, called “Blue Balloon,” is in the completion stage now, and the target release is late June-July. There is one more single release coming soon, and then preparations for the entire release.  Rob Hoffman and I are mixing it, Saida Staudenmaier is working on the artwork, and Mark Nubar is overseeing the entire madness, including the upcoming photo shoots, media campaigns, video etc. As you may know, we have already released five tracks from this album, starting with Blue Balloon itself. All of these are available for streaming here: https://wendywaldman.com/music-playlists.  I’m proud of this work—it’s a combination of going all the way back to the beginning for me, and looking way ahead into the future. On the heels of this release, I intend to be out on the road some at the end of this year and well into next, doing some solo shows, and also some duet shows with Cidny Bullens.

Speaking of Cidny Bullens, his new cd is also in the works, with some tracking this spring produced partially in Nashville with the great Ray Kennedy, and partially here at the Longhouse with me. I can tell you that the songs I’ve heard (and already worked on) are absolutely magnificent, and I hope this is the great Americana project that is long overdue from this remarkable artist, human being, and dear friend.

Speaking of remarkable artists and dear friends, one of the most exciting projects being mixed here at the Longhouse now is a collaboration between the legendary HB Barnum (look him up—start with decades of supervising music for Aretha Franklin), his choir known as Life Choir, my brilliant friend the Polish star Mietek Szczesniak, and myself. I’ve long felt that a cd needed to be made of the inspirational side of Mietek’s work, and at the same time, a spotlight has been needed on Mr. Barnum, who is an extraordinary leader, writer, arranger, and the hardest working dude I know. It’s been my privilege to dream this project up, and my pure joy to see it actually happen! We wrote the bulk of it, and also snagged a handful of HB’s own iconic songs. I expect a fall release for this magical work. It really makes joyful noise, in a hip and eclectic way.

Speaking of a joyful noise, the Refugees EP is also being mixed and we are really proud of this group of songs. Though we have scattered to the winds, we love to write and record together, and are mindful of the impact that we’ve had out there. This EP explores some new territory while also having a few tracks that are firmly rooted in Refugees “tradition..” I’ll leave that to you to discover.

LONGHOUSE RECORDS MUSIC LIBRARY

After a year of laying groundwork and figuring out how to do this, we are launching Longhouse Records, part one,  this very week!  This is something I have thought about for many years, even having opportunities in the past to do such a thing, but now is the right time: I’m proud (and scared) to announce that Longhouse Records is about to go online with its music library, offering cues, songs, instrumental tracks, and commissions to the film, tv, and commercial industry.  What I hope makes our music library different is that everyone who is represented by Longhouse is a true artist in his or her own right, in various aspects. We are proud to be featuring works from Cidny Bullens, the Refugees, myself, ShyBoy and Mark Nubar, Mietek Szczesniak, Rob Hoffman libraries, and introducing the superb young composer Abraham Parker. Our first offering is small by comparison to the enormous production libraries that are out there, but we believe the unique quality of who we are will attract the right people. And of course, we will be growing. I suspect you’ve figured out that after the library launches, we hope to be able to assist the release of various cds from all the folks who are working with us.  Our contact, mentor, and the person who suggested this in the first place is Karen Falzone, who with her company Mostly Music, works daily with film and tv supervisors all over the world. So, if it’s a success, it’s Karen’s fault. If it fails, it’s definitely mine. Also on board is my co manager, true mentor in all things post 1999, co writer and dear friend, Mark Nubar, who also manages the remarkable DJ ShyBoy, my collaborator Jason Arnold.  Mark Nubar and Karen Falzone are the engine of the new Longhouse Records library. I’m quite privileged to work with them.

Speaking of privilege to work with someone, may I point out that my studio and production partner, Rob Hoffman (whose history actually begins with Michael Jackson’s History and Christina Aguilera’s) is mixing our projects, collaborating musically, and brainstorming on all things Longhouse. But more importantly, in case you think folks around here aren’t working hard enough, Rob Hoffman has been studying Chinese medicine for many years, is a superb licensed acupuncturist (offices in Santa Monica) and recently earned his PHD—the first of two, in Chinese medicine.  Somehow he’s done all this, working with me (patiently), commuting to China, having a new baby with his wife, actor and acupuncturist Melody Zara Hoffman, AND teaching weekly tai chi classes. I’m tired just thinking about it. And very proud of Dr. Hoffman.

Speaking of working hard and venturing into new territory on a side note: it is known by a few folks that I have always been a collector of folk art, textiles, jewelry, books, artisanal clothing as well as a weaver and craftsperson myself. After considering this for many years, I am opening a small gallery, which will be an eclectic mix of the above and more, to be offered for sale and for perusing.  I have always loved seeing handwork from every corner of the world, and my house and studio are filled with it. I’ve been urged at different times to share and celebrate these things, and inspired by some other collectors whom I’ve watched, I’m offering a modest and tiny Etsy shop shortly.

Enough! Dear friends, thanks for reading this, if you made it through, and may this year be the best and healthiest for each of you.  My very best wishes and thanks to you,

Wendy

When The Eagle Flies

Latest single "When The Eagle Flies" is available for streaming and download.

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I was enjoying experimenting with vocal textures and contrast between sections of songs. The music was developing to my satisfaction: it had a cool middle part and I got to play electric guitar and have all sorts of fun in the studio. But I had no idea what the song was about.

Then came the terrible news of an attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. I read about our ambassador Christopher Stevens, who tragically and unnecessarily lost his life in that horrible situation. The more I read about the kind of person he was, the more I was impressed with him. They said he was a true foreign diplomat, having found his calling working overseas. I read about how much he loved Benghazi and his job, enjoyed walking through the city talking to folks, and enjoyed the people in general. By all accounts, he was a very cool guy, someone I think I would have liked to have known and called a friend. It was so sad: he of all people loved where he was and was much loved in return by the community he served in Libya.

That’s when the lyrics to When the Eagle Flies came to me. I saw the eagle high above all of our madness, watching us all—with sorrow-or maybe detachment, as he makes his way home. This song has become, for me, the story of every person who has lost his or her life service overseas, and now takes that journey home.

Dedicated to Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his family