Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tulsa Tribute

Sometimes I need to let things sink in a bit.
I don't always acknowledge my feelings for a while, and then it hits me.
The city of Tulsa, Ok has lost two of it's musical sons recently and it is very sad.
Steve Pryor and Stan Reed have both left this existence for the good life, and weeks apart. from each other.  I don't know everyones history as I would like to, but I can tell you that they were brothers
in music.  For those of you not from Tulsa, you must know that it is a tight-knit musical community
that is very diverse in style and unique in approach.  The "Tulsa Sound" is what Eric Clapton came looking for in the 1970's and what made JJ Cale's songs so famous.
Laid back and loose with a polyrhythmic backbeat, simple chords that intertwine country and blues.
The Tulsa Sound is true Americana.
I have always had a fascination with Tulsa and it's music.

Steve Pryor became my friend after 24 years of being a fan of his music and guitar playing.
In 1991 I was in Peaches Record store in south St. Louis eagerly looking for new blues rock music.
When I walked in they were playing some new rock and I went straight to the Blues section
to find something I didn't have. Ten minutes later or so I heard this song come rocking over the
store's in house sound system, and then this voice, the most gravel soulful voice I had heard.
"Starin' a hole in my floor, thinking bout you!"
I walked fast to the counter and asked what they were playing and the guy said it was the new
Steve Pryor Band cd that just came out.  I bought it immediately and ran to my shitty car
to put it in the cd player and crank it up.  I drove all around south St. Louis that day for hours just listening to that album over and over. His voice was so drenched in pain in suffering and the songs
were so good. His guitar playing was spot on, tone was killer and he played from the heart.....
I was hooked. I found a new hero that day in 1991.
I saw Steve Pryor on MTV a few times with videos for the new album.
I told everyone about Steve Pryor, played that cd at the music store I worked at everyday for years.
I know every word on that album and every lick on the guitar.
I kept looking for him to come to St. Louis to play a concert, but he never did.
I kept looking for another album to come out, but I never found another.
Years went by, when I was playing my own music and beginning to tour in the midwest.
I met a man who was the President of the Tulsa Blues Society and I asked him if he had ever
heard of Steve Pryor, he said of course and that Steve still lived in Tulsa. But Steve had been
dealt a rough hand with drugs and alcohol and he had a very bad auto accident.
The album I bought was on a major record label and he was going to really make a big career
but life got the best of the deal and it just didn't work out as planned.
He told me that Steve was still playing around town in Tulsa and making his own music.

20 Years later, I still had that cd I bought. I often asked folks I met from Tulsa if they knew Steve and if so, how he was doing and was he still making music. I was with a good friend in Austin one day
and when I was reminded he was from Tulsa I asked about Steve Pryor, had he heard of him before. He go so excited and told me he was a huge Steve Pryor fan, in fact he pulled out a bunch of cd's that were in his car and we started playing them. Steve had many other albums out he released on his own through the years and some bootleg recordings. We really bonded that day listening to Steve and his great music.  My friend told me that Steve had just recently gotten on Facebook and I should hit him up.  So I did.  I sent him a short message telling him how influential his album was for me back in 1991, how his guitar playing and songwriting really inspired me and that I hoped to meet him one day
and maybe play some music together.  About 2 weeks later I got a message back from Steve and he said simply "Thank You". That was more than enough for me.
Then about a week later I got another message from Steve "Holy shit, I don't think I realized who
this message was from, but your Mike Zito. Man I love your music, your guitar playing. Wow, thanks for reaching out to me man. We need to write some songs and play together"
I was floored, talk about dreams coming true, just very cool for me.
Steve and I began writing each other messages about songs and music and becoming friends.
I did not play much in Tulsa these past 10 years, but I was determined to get there on a tour soon
so I could meet Steve face to face and play some music with him.

So......I am walking through the airport in Dallas, Tx. summer 2015.
I see a man looking at me as he walks by and the guy doubles back and stops me.
"Are you Mike Zito?"  I said yes I am, and he introduces himself as Alan.
He is a guitarist and a Blues music lover and he knows me and my music.
We start talking and he says he does this music series in Tulsa, Ok and that he would love to have
me come and play. I got real excited and asked him "Do you know Steve Pryor?"
He says yes of course, very well. I asked if Steve will be at this show and he said he could make that happen.  So a few months later, Samantha Fish and myself pack up to head to Tulsa for a one night event. I land in Tulsa and walk outside to look for my ride and Steve Pryor is waiting for me.
He runs up and gives me a big hug, smiles, and grabs my bag - "Let's go" he says.
I was blown away.
I said "where are we going man?"  - he says "You're coming to play on my new album right now."
I said "What about the gig?" He says " The gig is fine, you'll be fine, but you've got to play on my new record man."
We jumped in his car and drive across town to Stan Reed's house.
Stan comes to the door and welcomes me with a smile that s unforgettable.
He gives me a warm hug and says "Brother, your home. Come in"
When I walked into Stan's house, I see that he has the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions on his wall in big
picture frames - they take up the entire front room wall. I was in awe.
He says "Man, I'm not in the program, but I think everyone should live by these principles."
I knew I was home.
I met Bonnie that day, and she was as sweet as could be.
We hurried into the studio and I ended up cutting tracks for about 6 tunes on Steve's new album.
Stan gave me a shirt to wear and we ran to the gig just in time to start playing.
It was a whirlwind to say the least.
I played with some of the best musicians in Tulsa, and on the planet for that matter.
But, I did not play with Steve Pryor. He had left early not feeling good, I never got to say goodbye.

Now I had made a connection in Tulsa and became friends with the guys on the scene, I was bound
and determined to get back to Tulsa and do a show with Steve Pryor.
We stayed in touch regularly always checking on each other.
In March of this year we put a show together with "Mike Zito and Steve Pryor"
Steve rocked the house. His voice and guitar playing sounded exactly like the album I listened to
1000 times over the past 25 years.
Stan was Steve's bass player, and sounded so great.
Stan had this giving heart. He gave himself to the music, it was apparent.
He was right there with Steve while they played together, hand in hand.
Steve got up with me and my band and played a handful of tunes and we jammed and cut heads,
and it was beautiful man, just beautiful. Like it was meant to be.
I was so happy. Steve Pryor was my friend. He was healthy and doing well and we were playing music together.
Stan reed was there just smiling and pouring love onto the whole scene.
Tulsa had accepted me and I was full of musical ideas.

Steve sent a few messages in April about some guitars and some amps.
We talked about gear and guitar stuff a lot.
He told me his new albums about finished and ready to come out, and  I played on it.
I was so excited to hear the new music and to be a part of it.

Then without a clue, he was gone.
Steve was killed on his motorcycle a few weeks later.
He ran a stop sign going fast through a neighborhood and a car slammed into him.
May 6th, 2016.

I was floored.
I couldn't believe it happened.
I got several messages from my friends in Tulsa, they confirmed the sad news.
Steve was gone.
Steve was wild and free and did his own thing until the day he died.

Now, just weeks after the passing of Steve, Stand Reed has departed our world as well.
I do not know the details of Stan's passing, but I know he is also gone.

My heart goes out to the city of Tulsa.
These two men were big parts of the music scene and will be missed terribly.
It is hard to believe, but it is true.

I cannot believe I had the chance to spend one day with the both of them, recording music
and having fun like 3 kids in a a candy store.
I am thankful to God for the opportunity to have met them both and called them friends.

Peace, Love, Zito