“One of them is Nick Guzman, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter who has played autism benefits alongside Stephen Stills and Neil Young, in addition to counting himself a proud Wild Honey regular. Nick and his mom, Christinna, both say that one of the greatest ways the Wild Honey Orchestra have improved Nick’s life is by surrounding him with amazing musicians who are also wonderful people, wanting to share the full depth and breadth of Nick’s interest in this life-affirming music.”
– Jackson Truax / LA WEEKLY
“The Beach Boys left their mark on music, but Wild Honey Orchestra and friends brought it to life last night. Musicians from near and far performed a with the Wild Honey Orchestra which holds its annual charity concert. The Tribute to the Beach Boys 1967-77 was a benefit for Autism Think Tank and Childrens Music Fund. Carnie Wilson, Al and Matt Jardine, Susan Cowsill, and a host of other well-known rockers took the stage at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and put on an unforgettable show. Nick Guzman performs “I Can Hear Music” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia Some of the most known but least performed songs were the highlight of the evening as Jardine kicked off the night with “Heroes and Villains,” and Nick Guzman followed up with “I Can Hear Music.” It was a night of memories and “good vibrations” for those who were around or even heard tell of the late 1960s and 1970s. ”
– Donna Balancia California Rocker
“Reminds me of a small gig I was at in L.A. many years ago where my boyfriend Wayne Berry and his band Timber were playing. On the line up that night was a young singer with a guitar. HIs name was Jackson Browne. He became a good friend and I think Wayne helped him get a leg up in the business. He blew us away. Nick reminds me of him…hope he is just as successful!”
– Sidonie Jordan
There, just to the right of Stills and Nash, confidently strumming an acoustic guitar and singing lead, stood not her husband but another musician entirely. Saratoga resident Nick Guzman, 23, was belting out the lyrics in a voice and style nearly identical to Crosby’s original. ”
– Marianne L. Hamilton
Next up was … Nick Guzman, who strummed guitar and belted CSN’s hit “Almost Cut My Hair.” With his Crosby-esque vocal — and long locks appropriate for the tune — Guzman’s performance was a true testament to the success of The Miracle Project, an organization formed to provide autistic performers with opportunities to express themselves in the creative arts. ”
– Megan Driscoll
“The schedule was also broken up with courageous performances by members of the Miracle Project Fly Singers, a group of teens and young adults with autism and other special needs. Rio Wyles, Lexington Aaron and Nick Guzman all delighted the audience with their performances, particularly Guzman’s version of CSN’s “Almost Cut My Hair.”
Excerpt from the article: After the intermission, a teenager named Nick Guzman effectively took center stage on guitar to perform the defiant CSN&Y chestnut, “Almost Cut My Hair,” which brought the house down. Stills’ playing gave the song a desperate, soaring edge that represented one of the night’s highlights. ”
– Chris Epting
“Another standout performance was Nick Guzman performing “Almost Cut My Hair”-he has a great voice, plays his acoustic guitar beautifully and has professional stage presence. Rock on Nick-you were awesome!” – charlysmom9
-Light Up The Blues on iTunes
“Beginning excerpts from the article: This guest post is by musician Nick Guzman who has autism and played at Autism Speaks’ Light Up the Blues event in Los Angeles. One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar was “Helplessly Hoping” when I was 11 years old. I have always loved the sound of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Fast forward to 2011 when Elaine Hall called my house to ask if I would like to perform for the Miracle Project at an event called “Autism is Awesomeism”. This is when I got to meet Stephen Stills and Jack Black at the Grove in Los Angeles. I played Ray LaMontagne’s “Beg, Steal or Borrow” and after I walked off stage Jack Black told me I sounded like Neil Young! It was a huge surprise that later that day I was asked to perform “Helplessly Hoping” with Stephen Stills himself, along with Lexi Aaron from the Miracle Project. What an amazing experience! ” – Nick Guzman
A reunion of three original members was just part of an epic L.A. show that also had Sebastian acting as a sideman to guest artists.
By Chris Willman
“I’m a happy idiot. What can I tell you?”
This was John Sebastian, leaving the Alex Theatre in Glendale early Sunday morning after an epic Lovin’ Spoonful tribute show that lasted four hours, with the hall’s overtime fees accumulating as the group’s mostly reunited lineup got in one last “Daydream” right after the midnight hour. No one was about to pull the plug on the Spoonful, as this was the first time the surviving original members had performed together since their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction 20 years ago… and for all anyone knows, it could be the last. If it took two decades to get them together again, no one was going to pull the plug on one last Sebastian whistling solo as former bandmates Steve Boone and Joe Butler played and sang along.
Hitting the exit around 1 a.m., Sebastian, seemed energized, not enervated, by four hours of performance and four days of rehearsal in which his life might have seemed to pass before his eyes — or three years’ worth of his life, anyway, since 36 of the 39 songs performed came from the brief 1965-67 period in which he was at the helm of the Lovin’ Spoonful. (Three early solo-period songs, including “Welcome Back,” completed the setlist.) What was remarkable was that, even though it’d only been planned for the Spoonful members to perform a few songs during the show, Sebastian sat in for the better part of the four hours as a sideman, recreating his intricate finger-picking parts or blowing a loud blues harmonica behind much of the parade of guest performers. Fifty-five years after he became a pop star, it was clear Sebastian is a guy who loves music — and musicians — possibly even more than the revered-as-a-visiting-god part that comes with the territory.
But Sebastian seemed as happy about the veritable cast of thousands on stage as the reunion part of the show (which he’s said can’t really count as the Lovin’ Spoonful in his mind without lead guitarist Zal Yanovsky, who died in 2002 and was cited several times during the show). “Having these wonderful 40 pieces was remarkable,” he said — 40 pieces spread across 39 songs. “Remember, the Spoonful has never had anything like this. We’re happy when anybody says, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do four or five of your big hits.’”
That included a lot of songs that probably haven’t been performed by any of the original members since 1967… or ever. Was it safe to say that Sebastian had never played “Lonely,” an instrumental written and performed for the early Francis Ford Coppola film “You’re a Big Boy Now,” with an actual orchestra since the original recording session “That’s correct,” he laughed, as if the idea would have been unthinkable. “Never, never, never.”
The show began as it ended, with just Sebastian, Butler and Boone on stage. The final number was “Daydream,” but the opener was no barn-burning top 40 hit — it was Mississippi John Hurt’s “Coffee Blues,” the lyrics of which gave the group its name. That lent the not-a-reunion “get-together” a great deal of sentimental value, but Sebastian didn’t take credit, saying of the sweet bookending, “Rob is really responsible for a lot of the good ideas that this show incorporated,” referring to Rob Laufer, the music director for the Wild Honey organization’s annual benefits for autism charities.
The scores of musicians and organizers taking part in the gig were at least as deep in their own happy idiocy. The annual Wild Honey shows are booked whether or not any of the tributees are going to show up, usually with little idea of that until after tickets have already gone on sale. Brian Wilson took part in an early Beach Boys salute in the ’90s, and Al Jardine joined in a follow-up in 2016. Three years ago, Garth Hudson did some epic soloing at a Band salute that musicians still talk about in hushed tones. Two years ago Richie Furay set the bar high by coming and taking about a half-hour’s worth of lead vocals at a Buffalo Springfield salute. In 2019, at a Kinks-themed show, there were no Kinks— which was no problem. When Wild Honey founder Paul Rock put tickets on sale for this Lovin’ Spoonful show, none of the three had confirmed. That they would enthusiastically reunite for only the third time in 52 years seemed beyond reach — but Rock’s phone call telling Sebastian that they’d be happy if they could fly him in to do nothing more than play harmonica on “Night Owl Blues” succeeded as a sales job where offers of actual financial renumeration had not in the past.
The gravy, beyond the (oh, let’s call it a) reunion, was in Sebastian’s eagerness to actually join the band… as well as to be raconteur enough that he could have been named co-host alongside the actual emcee, veteran music industry figure Pat Thomas. Among other peak highlights Sebastian did play harmonica on the instrumental “Night Owl Blues,” sharing the spotlight in a duel with Dave Alvin on guitar.
“He was also the first guy I ever heard play electric blues harmonica,” said the former Blaster of Sebastian, whose bona fides as a roots-oriented musician didn’t always get paramount attention amid the top 10 hits. “I was 9 years old a few miles away from here when I saw my first rock ‘n’ roll show ever, at the Rose Bowl. And it was Herman’s Hermits…” Alvin shook his palm from side to side in a gesture of “just so-so.” “East L.A. Midnighters. It was the Turtles. And then it got really good.” (“I was there!” screamed a woman in the audience.) “Next it was the Bobby Fuller Four. And the other act was the Lovin’ Spoonful. You gave me my first rock ‘n’ roll show — so thank you for giving me my life.”
The bill was full of slightly-next-generation artists, with Sebastian clearly a fan of many of them, unlike some of his more cloistered ’60s contemporaries. “You sure picked the right person for this,” he said of the Textones’ Carla Olson, with whom he made a duet, more or less, out of the country-flavored “Stories We Could Tell.” The late-’70s-forward figure he was clearly most delighted to be in the company of, though, was the Cars’ Elliot Easton (as promised in Sebastian’s Varietyinterview) — someone whose not-so-exposed country-folk finger-picking skills made him an ideal sparring partner for Sebastian on vintage songs that had once matched him with the late Yanovsky.
One show highlight had Sebastian and Easton enjoying an all-out picking bromance on either side of the singer Eleni Mandell as she turned “Fishin’ Blues,” the first song off the first Lovin’ Spoonful album, into something it’d probably never been before: a sexy vamp.
Actual ’60s contemporaries of the Spoonful were in shorter supply, but with a few notable exceptions: The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz had his way with “Daydream” before Sebastian and bandmates reprised it as their acoustic encore. Moby Grape’s Peter Lewis sang one of the few songs not written by Sebastian — “Other Side of This Life,” a Fred Neil composition also covered by Jefferson Airplane. Claudia Linnear, a backup singer brought to the fore in the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” and clearly one of Sebastian’s favorite people, took on another cover-of-a-cover, “You Baby,” recorded by the Ronettes before the Spoonful got to it. It was Sebastian’s idea going into rehearsals that they should work up something closer to the Phil Spector recording than his. “Man, you inhabit Ronnie Bennett for me,” he told her before they launched into the tune.
Sebastian did cut himself some breaks during the four hours, and there were plenty more highlights in his absence. For all the country and blues influences that came to the fore, there were also some delightful moments of pure garage-rock, like Nick Guzman’s reading of “There She Is,” with the Muffs’ Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald as the rhythm section. Peter Case and Olson also went thrashy with a duet of the taunting “4 Eyes.” Inestimable music director Rob Laufer gave himself a prize for his hard work — “Darling Be Home Soon” — and showed he’d earned it. (He talked about how Elliott had said he wanted to participate in the show just to add the one-note rhythm guitar part, but Elliott was backstage doing an interview and didn’t show up till halfway through the song, hurriedly picking up the guitar stand with his guitar as he leaped to the stage.) Mark Eitzel turned the reluctant breakup ballad “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” into the stuff of actual near-tragedy. More comically, Cindy Lee Berryhill was unforgettably accompanied on “Money” by a line of three banjo pickers — plus drummer Jim Laspesa moving up front, wearing a hat with “press” in the brim, to add percussion in the form of an undervalued rock ‘n’ roll instrument, the manual typewriter.
Susan Cowsill (“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”) was the one person on stage of a unique age and career to be counted as next-generation andas a fellow ’60s pop veteran. Or maybe so did Bill Mumy, of “Twilight Zone” fame, who, when Easton was again slightly tardy to the stage for his part, joked that he was afraid the guitarist had “gone to the cornfield.” Others ably taking a few minutes in the spotlight included Marshall Crenshaw, Marti Jones with husband Don Dixon, Steve Stanley, Kathy McCarty (“I have two and a half minutes to make you love me,” she announced before “Younger Generation,” and she did), the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken (who wrote liner notes for a Spoonful reissue), Fairport Convention’s Iain Matthews and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh and David Goodstein. A few actual bands got their turn, in the form of the all-female band Wednesday Week, country harmonizing trio Dead Rock West, and the Three O’Clock — the latter joined by vocalist Darian Sahanaja, who proclaimed himself as big a teenaged fan of the O’Clock as they were of the Spoonful.
An actual Nashvillian was brought in to perform “Nashville Cats”: Bill Lloyd — whose credentials included not just that he’s a renowned Tennessee singer and picker, but that he used to work at the Country Music Hall of Fame and helped interview session players for the exhibit that was named after that song a few years ago. Dramarama’s John Easdale drew what was either the short straw or long straw, depending on your thinking, with what was perhaps the most cult-pleasingly unexpected choice of the night, “Pow!,” from the “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” soundtrack. Carnie Wilson and husband Rob Bonfiglio got one of the climactic slots, a position befitting her royalty in these Beach Boy-worshipping circles, with a signature good-vibey Spoonful hit, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?”
That the Wild Honey benefits feel like a family gathering every year was underscored by a series of dedications to past participants. Muffs members Barnett and McDonald came out at the top to pay tribute to late frontwoman Kim Shattuck. Sahanaja told stories about Nicky Wonder, the guitarist who died on the eve of a recent Brian Wilson tour. The loss felt perhaps most widely across the Alex was that of Gary Stewart, who was last seen by many attendees at the Kinks tribute a year ago. On a list of reasons to live another year, as best one can, these annual tribal gatherings rank.
FEBRUARY 25, 2020
On Saturday, the annual Wild Honey benefit will take place at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, raising money for the Autism Think Tank and paying tribute to the Lovin’ Spoonful. We spoke to Wild Honey’s Paul Rock about it all…
L.A. WEEKLY: How, when and why did Wild Honey get started?
PAUL ROCK: In December of 1993, Wild Honey (Andrew Sandoval, David Jenkins and myself) staged a spontaneous, word-of-mouth fan tribute to Brian Wilson in the living room of my rented house in Hancock Park. Wondermints, featuring many members of Brian’s current touring band, and many others participated in this inspiring DIY show. Inspired by the sense of community created by the ’93 event, we moved to the 200-seat Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica and did another Brian Wilson tribute that featured a surprise performances by Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton and benefited Sweet Relief to help ailing musicians. Wowed by Wondermints, Brian ultimately incorporated them into his band in the late 1990s. During our run of shows from 1994 to 2003, we also staged celebrations of the Kinks, Hollies, Everly Brothers, Harry Nilsson, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello for a variety of organizations: Sweet Relief, Liberty Hill Foundation, Grammy in the Schools, USC Cancer Center, and Habitat for Humanity. The Kinks’ event featuring a Dave Davies performance at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in 1995. Formed organically through a shared desire to celebrate our heroes and support worthy causes, the all-volunteer Wild Honey kept going until 2003 and the emotionally devastating death of our friend Greg Dwinnell(celebrated in our 2003 Elvis Costello just before his passing). With families and life in general taking precedent, Wild Honey went on an unplanned hiatus for 10 years.
Since 2013, sparked by a need to help kids like my son Jacob (now 16), mitigate the often violent fallout from their severe autism, Wild Honey reconvened after a hiatus of 10 years to create shows for the Autism Think Tank, including a trilogy of Beatles’ shows, Beach Boys 1967-1977 featuring Al Jardine and the Brian Wilson Band, the Band’s first two records featuring Garth Hudson and Jackson Browne, the Buffalo Springfield with Richie Furay, the Kinks Village Green Preservation Society, and this year’s Lovin’ Spoonful Event, featuring original members John Sebastian, Steve Boone, and Joe Butler.
This show at the Alex — which cause is it benefiting?
As in previous years, the concert will benefit the Autism Think Tank, a nonprofit that brings together a team of top autism specialists, via an Internet medical conference, to tackle the medical/psychological issues faced by kids like my son Jake, a non-verbal autistic boy with extreme digestive distress and self-injury issues. Thanks to medical advice from a member of the Think Tank medical team, Jake’s often debilitating self-injury has been reduced by 95 percent. By giving families access to cutting-edge treatments, the Autism Think Tank provides welcome relief from the suffering that comes with severe autism. Since 2013, the Wild Honey Foundation has raised over $100,000 for the organization, which now operates under the wing of the newly formed Autism Healthcare Collaborative. Here’s a wonderful short video on how the Autism Think Tank works.
Who is performing?
The Lovin’ Spoonful original members: John Sebastian, Steve Boone & Joe Butler, Micky Dolenz, Peter Lewis (Moby Grape), Dave Alvin, Mark Sebastian, Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Susan Cowsill, Marshall Crenshaw, Carnie Wilson & Rob Bonfiglio, Iain Matthews, Claudia Lennear, Thomas Walsh, Eleni Mandell, Bill Lloyd, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Carla Olson, John Easdale, Kathy McCarty, Bill Mumy, Skylar Gudasz, Mark Eitzel (American Music Club), Elliot Easton, Nick Guzman, Darian Sahanaja, The Three O’Clock, Dead Rock West, Annette Zilinskas. Wednesday Week,
Why pay tribute to the Lovin’ Spoonful?
First and foremost, I am a lifelong fan of the the band and John Sebastian’s solo work. Despite some acknowledgement of their influential melding of folk, rock, blues, and jug band music (today’s Americana), I have always felt they deserved more awareness and appreciation, especially for their songs beyond the wonderful and often life-changing Summer in CIty and Do You Believe in Magic. Declaring that the Spoonful were the first band he ever saw play live, Dave Alvin (an all the other guests) jumped at the chance to perform, long before the original members of the Spoonful signed on. This will be a celebration and a reminder about a wonderful catalog of music. We will be performing over 35 songs with full instrumentation.
What else does the organization have coming up?
On March 1, the day after the show, Wild Honey will be sponsoring a show of original music by Kathy McCarty, Bill Lloyd, and Thomas Walsh (each out-of-town) guests for the Lovin’ Spoonful show.
In the Spring, we will be resuming benefit house shows in my Eagle Rock backyard mini-amphitheatre: artist TBA, but in the past we have featured original music by Muffs, Tommy Stinson, Al Stewart, Mark Eitzel, Vicki and Debbie Peterson of the Bangles, Melanie, P.F. Sloan, Tommy Keene, Steve Wynn, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Susan Cowsill, and many others.
The Lovin’ Spoonful: A Celebration of Music takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 29 at the Alex Theatre.
Our gal on the ground in L.A. does indeed believe in magic, and she’s got the images from this star-studded benefit for the Autism Think Tank to prove it. Initial details we posted HERE, so check out her photos and observations. Exclusive photos (pictured above: original Spoonful members John Sebastian and Steve Boone) and videos follow the text.
Text & photos By Susan Moll
In conjunction with the Autism Think Tank and the Autism Healthcare Collaborative, the Los Angeles-based Wild Honey Foundation stages yearly tribute concerts at the historic Alex Theatre to raise funding for autism research, education and treatment. Last year’s Wild Honey benefit paid homage to The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society, and The Band and Buffalo Springfield have also been celebrated in the past. (Follow the above links to our coverage.)
This year’s occasion was dedicated to the Lovin’ Spoonful, beloved sunshine boys of the ‘60s. Their folk-pop sound, admired by Lennon, McCartney and the brothers Davies, was a study in contrast to the pandemonium of the mid- to-late 1960s. As the Spoonful daydreamed, Watts rioted; as they believed in magic, Vietnam War protestors self-immolated. With songs redolent of sunshine and flowers, rain on roofs and summers in the city, the Spoonful served feel-good music to a country and a world desperate for something, anything, to feel good about.
It’s rare that a band shows up to play at its own tribute, and this year’s Wild Honey gathering marked the first time that original members John Sebastian, Steve Boone and Joe Butler appeared onstage together since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two decades ago.
They maintain it wasn’t an official reunion – an impossibility without Zal Yanovsky, who passed away in 2002 — but a casual regrouping of the Nashville cats. A slideshow of rare images of the band snapped by renowned photographer Henry Diltz preceded the happenings, which lasted for nearly four hours. No one in the Spoonful or the vocalists and instrumentalists of the Wild Honey Orchestra, the collective that backed each of the guest performers, lacked in stamina at any point of the 36-song lollapalooza of a setlist. Sebastian, Boone and Butler radiated palpable delight in their togetherness.
Sebastian happily regaled the audience with vignettes from throughout the Spoonful’s career, each one more entertaining than the last. In the ‘70s, he lamented that his musical style was no longer in vogue until the Sweathogs barged in. Enter “Welcome Back,” one of many enthusiastic sing-alongs … Sebastian detailed the origins of “Summer in the City,” penned by his brother, Mark, who stood in for Yanofsky … Dave Alvin, who paired with Sebastian for “Night Owl Blues,” first encountered the Spoonful at age nine, when they appeared at the Rose Bowl in nearby Pasadena with Herman’s Hermits. Not only was it the first concert of his life, it was the first time he ever saw anyone play an electric harmonica … Cindy Lee Berryhill gave out “Money” with banjoists Rob Bonfiglio, Jordan Katz and Jason Berk and percussionist Jim Laspesa (Love and Mercy) clacking away on a vintage typewriter… Bonfiglio and better half Carnie Wilson dueted “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” the stuff of young boys’ fantasies. So many girls, so little time… Micky Dolenzturned in a sweet rendition of “Daydream” and Claudia Lennear of 20 Feet from Stardom fame lent the evening a soulful touch with “You Baby,” a Ronettes 7-inch as well as a Spoonful hit … Carla Olson, whose next album, Have Harmony Will Travel 2, comes out March 20, was full of fire on “Stories We Could Tell” and “4 Eyes,” performed with Sebastian and Peter Case, respectively. … Case, meanwhile, broke open “Blues in the Bottle” and Steve Stanley stepped away from his duties at the head of the Now Sounds reissue label to contemplate a “Younger Girl” … Marshall Crenshaw channeled hums of the Spoonful with “Rain on the Roof” backed by pedal steel player Dave Pearlman, who’s accompanied the likes of Dan Fogelberg, Bobby Womack and Phil Everly on tour … Leave it to Mark Eitzel to find a happy band’s saddest song — “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It”– which he sang with passion and compassion to spare … Durham-based singer/songwriter Skylar Gudasz , who has accompanied Big Star on its Third traveling concert series , sang “You’re a Big Boy Now.” (Her next album, Cinema, arrives April 17.)
The evening concluded with the entire ensemble gathered onstage for the finale, “Do You Believe in Magic?” It’s guaranteed that everyone did.