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In The Studio With Jo Jo Gunne

by Leigh Crutchfield

The BIG DAY had finally arrived. Amazingly, I'd been able to actually and contentedly go to sleep the night before, even with knowing what was to transpire with the next day's light. My vacation was about to begin early - and the first day of it would be one of the very best and most memorable of my lifetime. It was Wednesday, July 30, 2003.

I awoke and went for a leisurely brunch of East Indian food, and then began to pack lightly, because I was only going to be gone overnight. It was a warm and beautifully clear sunny day, absolutely perfect for a road trip of a few hours duration. Soon, I was driving off listening to my tape deck (Jo Jo Gunne and Jay Ferguson solo, of course!) and a part of me was still somewhow astounded that this trip was really, actually happening.

Thus began a mostly continuous journey of about 300 mi. south down the coast of California from my home in San Jose to a small town somewhere south of Santa Barbara. The trip was mostly uneventful, with a quick stop at Taco Bell along the way. I came into the bigger city about 4:00 PM and ran smack into - rush hour traffic!

I began to fret a little. I still had to check in at the motel and get ready before my appointment. I didn't want to be late - not for this! - although a specific time hadn't been agreed upon between us, just '"late afternoon"'. Well, it was beginning to look like it was going to be '"early evening"' at the rate things were going! Yikes!

I finally arrived at the motel at around 4:45 PM and checked in. My room was on the third floor and I had to climb a bunch of stairs, carrying my bags up with me. Another lady about my age was looking around for her own room, and it ended up that her's was just two doors away from mine. I was hot, sweltering and in a hurry. And, of course - just because of that - my motel key card wouldn't work to open the door! I stood there dejected and impatient, beginning to gently swear as I tried in vain to get it to work.

"I'll watch your bags for you while you go downstairs", the lady kindly offered, as she watched me fumbling from outside of her doorway.

"Thanks!" , I replied gratefully and scurried down quickly to the office and got the key fixed. When I returned, we began to converse in a friendly way. We exchanged names, and she told me that she was a former Santa Barbara radio disc jockey that now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area nearby where I live and that she had come down to see a friend's painting exhibition. I told her that I was in town to interview a rock band named Jo Jo Gunne. "Oh, you mean Jay Ferguson!" , she exclaimed excitedly. "This is unbelievable! I'm here to go to his wife's gallery showing on Friday night! I'm an old friend of theirs!" And that's how this woman ended up joining me on my unique adventure.

I went into my room, swiftly showered and changed clothes and then made a quick phone call when I was ready to announce my arrival. After that, my new found friend and I drove for awhile and came to - Jay Ferguson's recording studio!

We softly rapped on the huge wooden door, and it was opened by a beaming Jay himself, who welcomed us warmly. After that, he introduced us to the other three men in the room - the rest of Jo Jo Gunne - Mark, Curly and Matt - and they also said hello to us with big, huge grins on their faces.

There were three tall standing microphones set up in the middle of the beautiful room that had a high, sloping ceiling and a whole wall made up of large glass windows, that were covered with thin, beige, cardboard horizontal venetian blinds to muffle the echo. I was invited to make myself comfortable, and chose to sit on the big dark leather couch right up in front next to where Mark, Curly and Matt were currently working on recording background vocals on a new version of an older Jo Jo Gunne song (no, I'm not going to tell you which one it was, don't ask!) , while my female companion opted to sit back away on the stairs that led to the loft.

For most of the next five and a half hours, I remained sitting and sinking into this comfortable sofa, actually right next to Matt when he decided to briefly sit down every once in awhile. Mark was standing at the other end of it to my left, and Curly was also up on his feet directly across from me. Jay was over in another part of the spacious room in a corner behind his gigantic black sound board, twisting dials and moving levers and coaching, encouraging and demonstrating to the other guys what he wanted them to do when they stood up and sang , all with headphones on. Mark sometimes took his off occasionally and kindly let us listen through them during the playback times ,and the sound was wonderful! At one point, good friend and contributor Rod came in with photographer Amanda, who took a few photos. Rod also ended up singing harmony on one of the tracks while I was there. About an hour after our arrival, we had a dinner break. A few of the guys went out and brought us all back delicious take-out dinner that Jay had graciously ordered. We all adjourned to the patio outside that had a breathtaking view of the dark green avocado groves stretching out below and further out beyond that, the blue Pacific Ocean. Jay's wife Debbie joined us, and we all had a really nice visit sitting around talking and eating for about half an hour as the sun went down.

Soon, Jay was up and moving, and we all knew it was time to get back to work once again. More intensive background recording followed, especially with Curly, because he was going to have to fly back home the next day and time was running out. Mark and Matt had travelled out from Texas, and Curly from Arizona, on a "working vacation" from their normal daily lives to record the CD. The mood in the studio that day and night was relaxed and fun, yet completely and utterly focused. Mark and Curly kept us quietly laughing with their ongoing banter back and forth between takes, with Jay and Matt joining in at intervals - they all have a great sense of humor, and of course the moderate consumption of a martini or beer each by some of them might of just helped lift their spirits a bit.

Between takes, I was able to chat a little bit with Matt, Mark and Curly. Matt confided to me that he was really enjoying recording this particular CD because of the calm and non-threatening atmosphere that hadn't been present during some of the previous, formal recording sessions with the band, and that since he hadn't played guitar in quite awhile, his fingers had gotten really sore from pressing on the guitar strings. Curly revealed that he's going to have his own solo rock CD coming out soon called "Doorway", and very thoughtfully gifted me with his signature drumsticks that he'd used while being there. Mark stated that he's lobbying for the new Jo Jo Gunne CD to be entited "Never Adult Moment."

At about 10:30 PM , Jay announced that we were completely finished for the evening, and everyone was surprised because they had thought this session would run much later than it had and also that it had went so very smoothly. Right after Jay said that, his big orange cat that stays there with him in the studio finally decided to saunter on out of hiding for the first time and laid down right in the middle of the floor, underneath the mike stands, and I finally got to pet the friendly critter and get acquainted with him, too!

Matt, Mark and Curly left shortly after that for their respective lodgings, and my friend and I remained for a few more minutes as Jay was closing up the studio for the night, and I was able to talk with him about the various subjects that I needed to. He thanked us for coming, and then the three of us slowly walked out into the cool, starry, summer night hearing the soft splashing noises of a nearby fountain and crickets chirping all around us, being bathed in the glow of soft amber outside lights, and smelling the scent of night blooming flowers wafting on the gentle breeze. Quietly saying our goodbyes to Jay, my friend and I then walked through the velvet darkness to my vehicle.

We drove back, conversing amiably, parted, and then I went to bed in my motel room. Sleep didn't come easily this time, as I was wide awake and totally happy from the day's wonderful events. I finally drifted off after watching some TV and slept in late the next morning. I stopped in on my way out of town and celebrated with a lunch of sushi sashimi at my favorite Japanese restaurant in Santa Barbara on State St., Kyoto. After that, it was back home to continue on with the rest of my vacation.

From what I've observed and listened to so far, the new Jo Jo Gunne CD is going to be absolutely outstanding! All of the guys can still play and sing extremely well despite their many years of being apart, and they have completed an intriguing mixture of both new and older tunes, with all of them being freshly performed versions that were recorded during July 2003 at Jay's studio. Everyone that deeply admires this band and it's members have been waiting a VERY long time for this music to happen once again, and believe me, the agonizing wait has not been in vain. I think all Jo Jo Gunne fans will definitely enjoy it, as I know I will. And hopefully when it comes out, there will be some live concerts for us to happily attend, too!




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