I started my day out by going to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum that is in the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Ironically one of Steve Lukather's musical heroes Jeff Beck was playing at the Auditorium today as his equipment was being loaded in as I arrived. I visited the Museum which is the new site since having moved between 2010 and 2013. Toto was inducted in 2009 at the original location. Joe Chambers the Director and driving force behind this immaculate and a well thought out museum was gracious enough to spare a few moments of his time to talk to me about the idea behind the museum, Luke, and Toto.
Joe Chambers, Founder of the Hall of Fame and Museum: "We inducted Toto in 2009. So we are the MUSICIANS Hall of Fame and what makes us different than being another Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame or another Country Music Hall of Fame is that we're not genre specific. We are all about all great musicians. One the thing that was lacking, in a lot of museums, especially when we first opened in 2006 was really a large amount of focus on everybody. Studio musicians along with well-known musicians. We made it a practice that you don't get 'inducted'. You can have an exhibit, perhaps. You don't actually get inducted into the Hall of Fame here unless you are a great musician. Usually, a musician that had an influence on other musicians or has a large body of work that's been recorded."
"As you know Toto were studio musicians like Booker T. and the M.G.'s, that became famous on their own. And of course Steve Lukather is an incredible guitar player and I have to say, and I know some people use this a lot now, that he is an equally incredible person. Steve is just a fun person. I think his personality comes through in his playing. He is so respectful and he honors those that came before him. More so than he should have. He is really better than so many people that played before him. But he gives them total respect. That's one of the things that I love about Steve is his love of music in general. He really is not a hound dog. He really is giving in every way. We're so happy and lucky that we have his '71 Les Paul Deluxe that he used on 'Hold the Line' and some other things. When he was telling me about it he kind of almost teared up because he was saying his dad knew how much he loved music and backed him, and his family backed him, the whole time. He said he bought that guitar for me when he really couldn't afford it, and that meant a LOT to him. You could see it. On top of being a great musician like I said, he's really just a great person."
"So many people don't realize how many great records Toto played on as studio musicians, together and separately. One thing and this was tough, I have to be honest with you. This was tough. Because, in order to keep the mission of this museum true, we don't induct anybody that's not a great musician. Now people can argue about a voice or a vocal being an instrument, and it is. It's the difference. The difference is mastering a foreign object whether it be a brass, or stringed or skins on drums. Whatever it is. The other thing is, it's human nature to, for anybody, me included to focus on the lead singer. Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) said 'yes I have lead singers disease.' Yes, it was great to hear him say that because he said 'ya, I know, I get all of the attention and I'm really thrilled when guys in the band get recognized on their own.' But the camera is always going to go on the lead singer. It would look weird on the video to be focused on the drummer the whole time or the guitar player. Unless it was the Ventures. That's understandable. I did catch some grief. Believe me, closest we came to putting singers in here were background vocalists."
"There was a great video 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' about the backup vocalists. It's true. In order to stay true to what we are doing, we just induct the musicians. So when we inducted Toto I told the guys I can't induct your lead singer. He can play at the induction but I can't induct your lead singer. It is awkward you know? But they understood. Hopefully, he did too. Because he is an unbelievable singer. I mean one of my favorite singers. It was in my nature to have him in the museum, but in order to make this museum different and to focus on who we wanted to focus on we have to follow our mission. So what we did was ask the guys 'who do you want to sing with you'? They were big Rascal Flatts fans. As it turned out Rascal Flatts were HUGE Toto fans. So it was a marriage in Heaven. It sounded as close to the record as you could imagine. And they ended up playing with each other at a show or two. That was a fun thing to put them together as well."
"Many years ago I was at a Conway Twitty recording session because I was a songwriter. Conway was recording one of my songs. I looked out into the studio, here in Nashville and I said 'Dang that bass player looks like the bass player in Toto, what the heck!' And it was! It was David Hungate. So David was a friend. So when Toto was nominated it was easy for me to run David down even though he wasn't in the band anymore. He contacted Steve and the guys and they were all happy to be inducted. It was just a lot of fun. And I'd have to say not just Steven. The whole band was really wonderful."
Reggie: I understand some of the family members including some of the kids were there and able to enjoy the ceremonies.
Joe: "They did. It was really fun. Steve, like I said is so much fun to be around. We were also inducting Billy Cox from the Jimi Hendrix Band that night as well. Steve was so funny and so kind. We used to do it over at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. This was at rehearsal over there. Steve walked in and Billy was on stage so Steve threw himself on the floor and crawled over there like a servant, hands, and knees bowing to Billy. I thought man, you know what? That endeared him to me so much because, believe me, he didn't have to do that."
Reggie: That's not for show. That's truly who he is.
Joe: "That's EXACTLY right! That's like what I was saying earlier. He has respect for those who came before him. Steve's musicianship is unparalleled. There's not a whole lot of guys that are better than he and his instrument. To humble yourself like that in front of everybody, to me was incredible."
After Luke read what Joe Chambers had to say he told me "Wow.....speechless".
I have recently reviewed the Toto Portland and San Diego shows so I will cover a few of the many Nashville highlights. Every seat was filled early at this historic venue. Smiles and nods were abundant early especially towards Dominique Xavier Taplin affectionately called simply "X". He kind of saved the day as he is filling in for ailing brother David Paich. The keyboardist and vocalist who has played with Prince fit right in at "Music City". Even more comfortable than the early gigs it is hard to tell how new he really is. "English Eyes" had both Steve's in 5th gear. Luke and Steve Porcaro were flying high on this number in front of the musician heavy crowd. Luke seemed to have bigger smiles and a bigger bounce in his step all night long. Luke was still in 5th gear bouncing across the Brazilian Teak flooring just in the nick of time to hit his vocal part. Percussion pals Lenny Castro and Shannon Forrest had breathing room on this stage setup unlike previous gigs where they were right on top of each other. Despite the roominess that didn't deter the two from a continuous all night groove. Ringo All Starr Warren Ham was strategically placed right between the pals singing and playing multi instruments all night long but particularly shining on saxophone.
"Jake to the Bone" immediately reminded me of my earlier visit in the day to the Musicians all of Fame less than a mile from the Ryman. Watching this raucous instrumental would be all anyone would need to see to cement Luke and Toto's place in the Hall. This was another showcase for Lenny and Shannon. "X" once again fits like a glove. "X" got some big love from Luke again as he got on all three shows I have witnessed.
My front row seat right in front of Luke gave me an even greater appreciation for something that seems to get lost. Luke's vocals are another big weapon. During the acoustic set, his voice shined brightly. The story behind 'Human Nature' surprised even this highly musically educated crowd as to it's Steven Porcaro/Toto origin. I could feel the crowds shock that Porcaro had written this Michael Jackson classic. All these songs truly live forever as Michael Jackson's records are still on the charts along with Toto's. Hearing hair-raising vocals by each member individually brought to my attention the magic when all five voices of Luke, 'X', Shem von Schroeck, Ham and of course Joseph Williams are combined. Luke at songs end said 'YES, he did write that song and YES we did play on it!' The crowd showed their appreciation for their new found music knowledge. This Nashville crowd truly 'got it' just a tad more than your average crowd.
"No Love" was a Nashville fitting song for sure. The Country Blues number featured Ham on Harp. Luke again interjected how much fun they were having. He then pointed to Steve Porcaro and said 'it ALL started in his garage at 15 years old'! Luke told the crowd of his friendship to Lenny Castro since the age of 19 touring with Boz Scaggs in 1977. Steve then at the top of his voice bellowed 'Hailing from NASHVILLE! We stole him from NASHVILLE! The incredible Shannon Forrest. The band broke out with Michael McDonald's 'I Keep Forgettin' since Shannon played with Michael. Luke turned and said 'I played on that'! (Of course, Jeff Porcaro did too).
Luke was then introduced by Williams as being from another planet. After seeing Luke's playing I think some in the crowd thought he wasn't kidding. The band then broke out into another MJ classic 'Beat it'. Luke then immediately said ' I played on that'! Everyone knows Eddie Van Halen played the solo, but Luke played guitar and bass, Steven Porcaro played synthesizers and Jeff Porcaro played drums. Now it was time to play a song from his boss in his 'other band', Ringo's All Starrs. The Beatles 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' had Luke dedicating it to his friend George Harrison. Not only did Luke have Music City mesmerized, band mate 'X' was watching intently and nodding and shaking his head in appreciation and some disbelief. These guys are always on top of their game but all seemed to dig a little deeper throughout the night.
Luke said once again ' it's time for THAT SONG'. He wasn't kidding as this song truly has a second life. I heard either the Toto version or the Weezer version of 'Africa' on my trip in the gym, hotel, airport, great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and at the baseball stadium in Nashville First Tennessee Park where they played the song and Toto video on the scoreboard. For those few who didn't know the song before, now EVERYONE knows this song. That was proven by everyone singing along tonight. Returning Weezer's favor Toto recorded and released a version of Weezer's 'Hash Pipe' which is already on Spotify's Top 40 and playing on ALTERNATIVE Radio. Toto closed with the Weezer song and played it with the same effort and energy as it was one of their own.
After the show, Luke IMMEDIATELY told me 'Nashville was great. The crowd was AWESOME'! True Music City showed up as Paul Taylor (Winger, Tom Keifer, Steve Perry), Chris Frazier (Foreigner, Whitesnake) and Jimmy Pankow (Chicago) were a few of the many musicians that showed up. The 2,000-mile trip was well worth it.