Born June 19, Jefferson Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Second of 5 kids.
Mom: social worker/professor. Dad: architect/city planner. Soon after emerging, receives first Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger records.
Leaves Philly at 6 months, not under own power, but reportedly with enthusiasm. Makes interim stop in Pittsburgh, PA, at 5710B Beacon Street. Stays approximately four years, then heads west with family.
Grows up (or not) in Litchfield Park, Arizona (once a
Goodyear Tire & Rubber company town) --
a modern little village 20 miles west of Phoenix. Collects lizards and snakes. Rides in the Goodyear Blimp.
Bitten by ants, stung by scorpions. Is very hot. Knows all water fountains in area. Hangs
out in cold vegetable section of corner grocery for significant parts of summer. Burns feet
every year from melted asphalt, a necessary ritual.
Meets Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath when they play golf in
Litchfield! Rides in their golf carts.1971
Moves with family to Southern Ontario. Hates it. Retreats to room
Still in room. Memorizes top 100. Essays to parle français.
Returns to Arizona. Continues practice of staying in room. Starts playing
guitar in there. Sees Arlo Guthrie at Grady Gammage, Tempe.
Soon realizes that his life has been drastically (some might say tragically) affected by the event.
Begins flatpicking and fingerpicking guitar in earnest. Picks up
mandolin and banjo for first time. Resists others' wishes that he put them down. First performance:
Crazy Ed's Place, Deer Valley, Arizona. Nearly soils trousers in fear. Later that year: first paid gig(!),
playing with Phoenix Dixieland and Western Music maven Igor Glenn at same Crazy Ed's.
first Bluegrass flatpicking contest. Still has ribbons. With Founder
Tom Rhodes, becomes charter member of "Save a Turtle for Jesus
Society". Preaching nightly to the "unhatched" on
CB radio, they spend some time avoiding angry people in large trucks
with long antennas...
Works as extra in Barbra Streisand's "A Star Is Born". Gets screen time
(wearing red flannel shirt. Ask for details). Meets and works briefly with Bill Graham.
Leaves high school, finishes up via correspondence classes. Goes straight to Arizona State.
Eats pizza, plays instruments and does not thrive academically. Joins Joshua Stone, a popular local bluegrass band.
Sees much of Arizona by truck and honky-tonk.
Not much happens. Practices. Well, graduates from high school...
Joins Normal Brothers, local legends of Arizona bluegrass/progressive country music scene.
First travels beyond state borders as musician. Is denied entry to Phoenix Hoyt Axton show because
of "faulty" fake ID. Pounds on bus door. Axton, after extracting information in regards to bus
air-conditioning repair, allows him access to show.
Normal Brothers dissolve. In November, MC applies to Vassar College
in Poughkeepsie, NY.
January: Moves to
Key West, FL, ostensibly to spend a BEOG grant, study marine
biology, small marine engine repair and learn to scuba dive. Packs
all belongings, dog (Francois le Pooch) and self into Dodge Dart
and drives east. Two days later, dog is run over by 6 uniformed
San Antonio cheerleaders with megaphones. Next day, clothes are
stolen from car in New Orleans. Day after that, stuck in race riots
in Liberty City near Miami. Some week. Arrives in Key West.
Finds employment as counselor for juvenile delinquents. Recognizes
post as case of blind leading the blind. Teaches music. Builds steel
drums. Writes to
Pete Seeger for advice; actually receives response. Becomes
Flotilla" boatlift. Comes back with 200 Cubans, a couple
of bottles of rum and many cigars. Is seen on "Walter Cronkite"
by neighbors. Butchers many fish. Observes many inexplicable phenomena
(especially his crewmates). To his relief, is notified of acceptance
and financial aid at Vassar. Goes up to Poughkeepsie and moves in.
Meets Pete Seeger in person. Becomes involved
with environmental group, The
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Performs w/ Pete and others at
many Clearwater events. Majors in biopsychology (interests: dolphins,
brain physiology and pharmacology; understanding consciousness,
lack of it, and whatever happens in between.) Together with Web Mangler Uncle Normie, co-hosts the oft imitated, never duplicated “Trouser Free Radio” on WVKR FM.
Graduates. Goes to Europe. Returns to Arizona.
Hooks back up with members of Normal Brothers, now named "Two Week Notice" Plays Western states
Works on Coen Brothers' "Raising Arizona" (check the credits!).
Recorded song which was not used. Will not disclose what job really entailed, even under pressure.
Is selected as "AZ
State traditional artist", plays concerts across west and
northwest. Plays folk festivals, conducts school residencies. Moonlights
as substitute teacher at old
high school (spelled: revenge). Is known by students as "Doctor
Doom". Encourages subversion. Even so, gets to hang out in
teachers lounge. Never adapts to the weirdness of it all... Becomes
country and folk music writer for New
Times Weekly and LA Times Syndicate. Makes enemies in local
music community. Moves to Santa Monica.
Has trouble making a living as a musician. Gets an office job in Music Video Babylon.
Is fired. What a freakin' relief.
Scores first movie, Bob
Nixon and John
Cronin's documentary feature, "The
Last Rivermen". Sometimes you just get lucky. Promotional
aside: check out Cronin and Robert
Kennedy Jr.'s "The
Riverkeepers" for more info. Seriously. Do it.
Writes Saturday morning cartoon,
Composes for CBS prime-timer, "The Women of Country Music". Receives some royalties. Is immensely gratified,
not to mention grateful. Meets Ry Cooder at YMCA. Has now met all living personal musical heroes; can die reasonably
Produces stage and performs at UCLA Troubadours of Folk Festival. Works with Arlo Guthrie,
Joni Mitchell, Richard Thompson, Jack Elliot, Eric Andersen, Ben Harper, Syd Straw, Ronee Blakely, Beausoleil,
John Hammond, Jr. and others. Is left holding the bag when bastard promoter rips him (and many performers) off.
Resolves to live and learn.
Learns that bastard promoter is now selling
Amway products. Hopes he isn't successful.
Plays McCabe’s periodically. Goes to Nashville for a little while.
Doesn't like it much.
Hooks up with satirical/topical bluegrassers,
the Austin Lounge
Lizards. Tours with them on bass for some months. Has time
of life. Produces records. Recognizes Austin as musical Valhalla.
Becomes devoted to barbeque.
Begins regular exercise program.
Composes some music for Jonny Quest cartoon
revival. Works as session musician. Specialty: roots music. Instruments:
guitar, bottleneck, steel, mandolin, mandola, banjo, harmonica,
accordion, fiddle, piano, bass, other weird stuff… Records and occasionally
tours with Interscope singer/songwriter Phil
Hooks up with LA supergroup Bryndle,
playing bass and accordion. Playing at a Colorado festival, is asked
by Asleep At the Wheel’s
Ray Benson, “Hey, man, how do you audition for a gig on those axes?” There's no good answer to that one.
Brought out to Nashville as a country music
authority (ever heard of bringing a sandwich to a banquet?), works
on “Roots Of Country: Nashville Celebrates the Ryman Auditoriom”,
researching in the Country Music Hall of Fame and conducting interviews
with icons of Country music, including Earl Scruggs, Porter Wagoner,
Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe, Delbert McClinton, Loretta Lynn, and
scads of others. Has great fun cavorting musically with relocated
pals from Arizona and consumes massive quantities of “Meat and
Starts hanging out, playing and working
with The Groundlings
founder Gary Austin,
singer and vocal coachmeistress Wenndy MacKenzie, a relationship
which continues and often confounds, but in a good way.
First Year of the Chump: Works with actor/writer/director
Stephen Burrows on what
will become the Miramax feature, “Chump
Change”. Travels to Milwaukee to record polka
music. All goes great. Upon return to Los Angeles, is contacted
by the film’s producer. “This movie’s too big for one composer,”
the producer insists. “We need Liza Minelli, Nancy Sinatra and
Shirley Jones. My hairdresser’s boyfriend can get them.” While
scratching his head in confusion, MC is fired from Chump Change.
Director Burrows convinces him not to disappear, and MC ultimately
scores the picture behind the producer’s back. When Hairdresser’s
Boyfriend doesn’t come up with the goods, the surreptitiously
recorded score is put in place. That story is far from over… in
the meantime, via influence of the esteemed Colonel Muscletone,
Ira Ingber, MC contributes to Van
Dyke Parks’ score for the Showtime feature,
Harlan County War (Dir. Tony Bill), sings a duet with
Jennifer Warnes (and plays on her current album) and generally
has a good time in the music biz.
Scores a bunch of movie trailers and short films. Purchases a new computer, which makes his job a LOT easier; adds new music to “Chump Change”, which is winning acclaim on the festival circuit, not to mention a good handful of awards. These include, but are not limited to the “Audience Choice Best Picture” at the HBO Comedy fest, along with “Best Actress” for
Traci Elizabeth Lords. Chump is picked up by Miramax! Scores testimonials and ads for the Gore 2000 campaign and the Democrat National Convention. Guesses it didn’t take…
Tours, along with longtime buds Sheldon
“Algazzam” Gomberg and Andy Kamman, with Warren
Zevon in a bus previously used by Guns’nRoses’ Slash.
Ponders various odors and stains across several western states.
Travels with Zevon, as a duo this time,
to a couple of folk festivals
in Alberta. Warren’s not feeling too well; he leaves
Edmonton early to a grim diagnosis a couple of days later. For
devotees of David Letterman: MC wishes to state for the record
that he did NOT insist that it was “just stress”, nor did he ever
apply to medical school, but admits asking WZ if he ever watched
Produces singer/songwriter Bob
Trio, Brothers Four) solo CD. Plays a lot with
John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and fiddle-playing bud
Craig Eastman. Sits
in whenever possible with longtime pal
Lucy Kaplansky, meaning, whenever she’s in town, which isn’t
Chump Change is released! All concerned
are gratified and relieved. MC and most of his pals are dismayed
with American foreign policy, the state of the economy and the
question that though, sure, the space program was started with
a chimp behind the controls, out of respect for the founding fathers
(and for the memory of Ham
himself), do we HAVE to have this monkey in the
White House? Looks forward to campaigning for the opposition.
Oh, yeah. Also masters audio for Nirvana box set, "With the Lights Out".
Scores lots of movie trailers; records "The Ballad of Floyd Collins" for John McEuen's "Round Trip" CD. Other stuff probably happened, but hasn't made it past the censors.
Pretty interesting year, if you ask MC. First, starts working regularly with America's Maestro, Van Dyke Parks, first as music producer/engineer on the Walter Hill-directed miniseries, "Broken Trail", then in general on indie harpist/songwriting whiz Joanna Newsom's critically acclaimed album, "Ys". Then comes a co-production of "Yellow Magic Carnival" for the Japanese-released tribute to Haruomi Hosono... then playing mando and making all sorts of other noises on the Hal Willner-produced "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys" Also starts putting together his own collection of tunes. Where is it? MC wonders the same thing. Let's check in a couple of years later. No, really. He's working on it.
Does a bunch of touring around with John McEuen; fills in for his buddy Skabbo, playing with Glen Campbell in East St. Louis. Chuck Berry just happens to be playing blackjack that night, and checks out the set. How bout that? Ok, whatever.
Sort of another big year. Via Van Dyke, ends up working for about a month in close quarters with Brian Wilson. In the name of consistent income, does sound mixing for the BET reality series, "Baldwin Hills". Applies to the Sundance Institute Summer Labs and is selected as a Composer Fellow! Has a splendid time with his 5 fellow fellows for about three weeks up in Utah. Actually, mere words in a bio timeline cannot adequately describe this superlative experience. Plays with Steve Martin at Democratic fundraiser. It's in Brentwood. There are lots of famous and recognizable people there. It has expensive seats. Bluegrass is played. And what do you know? The Democrats win! Coincidence? Don't care. Just grateful.
It's really only half underway, isn't it? But it started off with a bang. From fundraisers to playing with Mr. Martin on Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres and American Idol. That's a lot of people hearing the banjo, folks. And, speaking of which, attends Pete Seeger's 90th birthday bash. Didn't play. Didn't need to; everybody else did! Watched him jog offstage, and realized that things might not be so grim after all. Turn, turn, turn. Speaking of which, yeah, MC's turn, turn turning 50 in June. He can still jog. And that album's getting finished this year. Really.
Still looks forward to scoring YOUR movie. You've got my number.