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INTERVIEW: John Sebastian A Cog In The Wheel Of The Greatest Musical Cultural Sea Change In The History Of Man

T.J. Clemente

June at WHBPAC will culminate with John Sebastian. (Courtesy Photo)

On Friday June 28, the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) will present music icon John Sebastian as he brings his one-man guitar and harmonica show to the East End. During a phone interview for Hamptons.com, Sebastian exhibited the enthusiasm he has for life, music and entertaining folks and telling his story about being in the cockpit of a musical cultural revolution and enlightenment.

When asked about the show he will perform in Westhampton, Sebastian replied he has picked "the special ones," and will also tell stories behind so many songs of that time and in his career. He has always been very open about how music has been his life. His dad was a professional musician and eventually brought John to a music store on Second Avenue in New York City and plunked down $12 for John's first guitar, "A Royalist."

Sebastian told me his famous story of being "in Cass Elliot's apartment on Gramercy Park" while still a student at NYU and watching The Beatles play live on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was a "game changer" for his music and his life. He spoke of the five summers he spent living in Florence, Italy with his dad and the reality of absorbing the cultural experience of that city and country.

I asked his for three defining moments of his musical life. Sebastian answered, "First was when I was 16 and my dad was on a TV show with no audience in a studio and I sat behind the camera. On the show was Joan Baez and British Shakespeare actor (and BBC/producer) Richard Hopkins. That was a huge day in my life." Then John said, "Many years later, when I was on a TV show with my dad he was asked when I left home, and he said, 'John left home when he watched a TV show, I was on with Joan Baez and John Hopkins when he was 16.'" John paused and added, "I was surprised how perceptive my dad really was."

His second moment came in the 1980's performing with the "elder statesman of blues," mandolin player Yank Rachell. "There is a song about taking a right on a rode to Brownsville, Tennessee, and one day I was driving Yank and he said, 'Take the right,' and I realized we were on the road to Brownsville in his song."

John Sebastian said his third magic moment was in or around the year 2000 when he played a gig "playing guitar and harmonica with Jimmy Vivino along with Jazz, blues, and rock and roll piano legend Johnnie Clyde Johnson who played on so many of Chuck Berry's early recordings."

I asked Sebastian if he had mentored anyone and he said, "Nobody emulated me, nobody has ever said the greatest influence in my life was The Lovin' Spoonful." John is very wrong about that - who of a certain age cannot remember dancing with a girl to the tune Do You Believe in Magic? It was magic and many folks picked up a guitar to learn to play to have the magic of a beautiful young girl dancing to the music.

John Sebastian was the front man for the ground breaking group The Lovin' Spoonful and his songs: Do You Believe In Magic? You Didn't Have To Be So Nice, Daydream, Summer In The City, Welcome Back and so many more endure. Don't miss a chance to hear this man, who was without a doubt a cog in the wheel of the greatest musical cultural sea change in the history of man.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.

Added: June 24, 2019, 12:06 pm
Appeared In: the arts >> live music view