Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Frank Zappa and Steve Mann

In 1962 Mann was introduced to a young singer named Janis Joplin at an open mic performance at The Troubadour. Mann began accompanying Joplin on guitar and they performed at open mics around the Los Angeles area. They stopped performing together when Mann temporarily relocated to San Francisco.

"All the songs were from her repertoire, not mine, but anything Janis sang, I just found her key and we started in, because it was just the best old down-home blues singing possible, and I couldn't help but know what to do with that. She just belted out those blues and gave all her energy to the music. Her voice just poured through me and came out my fingers. We hardly needed to even practice her songs first, because I'd heard a lot of old records, probably many of the same ones she'd studied, and besides she was really good at taking cues and feeling when it was time for a guitar break--all that stuff. We both knew when the song was going to end, and it all came out great on the tape. She was a pro. She was very talented. A great voice. I was very impressed."

Guitar.com: Was there ever anyone that blew you away the first time you heard them?

Jorma Kaukonen: There was a guy I met, in 1963 named Steve Mann, from L.A. He played the 12-string guitar on Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe", worked with Mac Rebennack [Dr. John], and did a lot of sort of silly pop stuff. But he was a really brilliant fingerstyle guitarist. He would do really complex versions of Ray Charles songs like "Drown In My Own Tears" with all the big band changes, cool stuff.

Sometimes the musician wasn't up to par, sometimes it was drugs, or maybe sometimes, despite the musical abilities of a player, it just wasn't a good fit for the style Frank wanted.

Zappa:"somewhere along the line, we had hired Steve Mann, who is also one of the top blues guitarists on the West Coast. He wanted to play in the group but he couldn't make the changes and we got rid of him."

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