News Column

KC musician David George rejuvinated after surprise tour with John Fogerty

August 29, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 29--In August 2012, David George had come to peace with a difficult decision.

"I'd resigned myself to step back from doing music so much," he said. "I had a job I really liked with health insurance, after more than 15 years without it as a musician.

"I wasn't going to quit music, but I'd decided to cut back, whether that meant doing one show a month or so."

Then from his manager, who has a history with John Fogerty, he got the phone call of a lifetime, one that threw him back into the music world, big time.

"My manager called me and left a message about me playing in Canada with John Fogerty," George said. "I thought, 'My band open for John Fogerty in Canada? Sure.' So I called him back and he said, 'No. You play guitar for John Fogerty, in his band.' They were looking for a guitar player, and he recommended me. I was floored."

So George sent Fogerty a series of audition videos of him singing and playing acoustic and electric guitar. Several days later, he got a call confirming that the job was his.

"I had, like, a week to learn 40 songs, get a passport, quit my job and get my life in order before I disappeared for a month," he said.

By early September, he'd joined the band in Los Angeles and rehearsed enough to be prepared for the opening of Fogerty's tour in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. It was all a bit surreal for a guy whose fondness of Fogerty's music goes way back.

"One of my earliest memories associated with music is being 3 years old, banging on pots and pans in my mother's kitchen to 'Cecilia' by Simon and Garfunkel and 'Down on the Corner' by Creedence Clearwater," George said. "Whenever we played that song, I almost giggled."

George has been plugging away in the music world since the early 1990s, after he had moved to Los Angeles and started the Chaneys, a five-piece band with three vocalists that drew comparisons to Crosby Stills & Nash and America. The band made some waves and drew some label interest, but George eventually decided he wanted to write on his own, so he moved on and formed the pop band Deege.

In 1997, he moved back to Kansas City, where Deege began to flourish. It got some local radio airplay and stirred up some interest from several big labels. But a disastrous showcase at the South by Southwest Music Conference in 1998 sounded the death knell for that band.

"It wasn't my worst show ever, but it was close," George said. "Something just didn't click. After that, we just kind of fell apart."

He started another band, Moaning Lisa, that again revved up his hopes for a break in the music industry. In 2004, he moved that band to Los Angeles, where its momentum flagged.

"We got tired of the heat and the cold in Kansas City," George said, "and we were kind of outside the music scene here. But moving to L.A. was a mistake. It's all cool when you first get there, but after a while, it wears you down."

In 2010, he moved back home, this time for family and personal reasons, and to resume his pursuit of a life in music.

He now leads a "killer" band, David George & a Crooked Mile, with Giuliano Mingucci on drums; Cody Wyoming on guitars, piano and mandolin; Ben Byard on bass; John Johnson on guitars and mandolin; and Christine Gross on cello.

"It's my band, but it's the kind of band where we bounce ideas off each other," George said. "I love the camaraderie. They're all so skilled."

But there came that day when he decided that it was time for him to recalibrate where a band and music fit in his future.

"I saw guys who were in bands 10 years ago with real jobs, driving nice cars and buying houses and having children," he said. "I'm not saying all that is for me, but it made me appreciate having a good job I like with full benefits. And I have a great girlfriend.

"I didn't want to give up a good job and another girlfriend and starve or live on Taco Bell just to be in another band. So, I was thinking it was time to step back from music and think about the bigger picture."

Then he got the call about Fogerty and the chance to learn from a legend and step into the limelight.

After a 16-show tour of Canada, George performed with Fogerty on "Late Night With David Letterman," "The View" and "The Tonight Show" and at the release party for Fogerty's new album, "Wrote a Song for Everyone." In November, Fogerty and the band were one of two acts to perform at a private birthday party in Las Vegas. The other: Paul McCartney and his band.

"We played in different rooms at different times, so we got to see him play," said George, who has a Beatles tattoo on his right forearm. "I did see him briefly. ... He said 'hello.' I may have said 'hello' or just opened my mouth and made a noise."

George will not join Fogerty's band when the tour resumes in October.

"He hired all new string players," he said.

But the experience has rejuvenated him. His band plans to release two EPs by year's end and then a full-length album next year. It performs Saturday night at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road (see box).

"The experience has been so valuable," George said. "It has made me more confident and more aware of what I'm playing in my band. I don't over-think things like I used to.

"And I've learned a lot about songwriting. John is so good at it. All those hits and the new songs, too: They're catchy with great parts.

"It taught me things I can apply to my band, and it reminded me of how much I love playing music."

Saturday

David George & a Crooked Mile perform Saturday night at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Showtime is 10 p.m. Also in the bill: Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and Bowinero. Admission to the 18-and-older show is $8.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/phinnagain. Read more from him at our music blog, Back to Rockville, at KansasCity.com.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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