The Glorious Corner: Derek & The Dominos’ Bobby Whitlock, BeeGees Salute, Jersey Boys’ Donnie Kehr and More

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G.H. Harding 

WHITLOCK ROCK — Three of the most iconic albums in rock ‘n roll history – Derek & The Dominos’ Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street — all have a common denominator… pianist/guitarist/songwriter, and co-founder of Derek & The Dominos, Bobby Whitlock.

Throughout the past decade, Bobby Whitlock has been performing and recording with his partner/wife – singer/guitarist/saxophonist CoCo Carmel. This summer, the couple will embark on The Sparkly Shoes Tour, kicking off on June 2 in Memphis. This very special 9-date outing is an intimate all-acoustic event, presenting Derek & The Dominos’ songs that were written / co-written by Whitlock, interspersed with his work with CoCo Carmel.

Expanding upon the experience, Whitlock and Carmel have handpicked a different local guitarist to perform with them at each show, ensuring that no two sets will be the same. Having worked with the most renowned guitarists in the world, they have carefully selected musicians who will highlight and embellish their already stellar repertoire.

To witness the music of Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel is to experience rock history in action. In 1969, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett asked Whitlock to be their first “friend” in their new group, which later incorporated Eric Clapton as a “guest friend” on their European tour, followed by George Harrison. It was during this time Whitlock was invited to perform on Harrison’s landmark album All Things Must Pass. Those sessions sparked more songs, as Whitlock and Clapton began to collaborate, crafting material that would eventually feature on 1970’s historic Derek & The Dominos’ opus Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, which he co-produced. Whitlock’s songwriting contributions are the classics “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Keep On Growing”, “I Look Away”, “Tell The Truth”, “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad”, “Thorn Tree In The Garden”, and “Anyday”, which will be performed on tour.

Meanwhile, CoCo Carmel thrived in her own right, producing and co-producing several albums, including her own release First Fruit. Engineered and co-produced with her former husband Delaney Bramlett (who she was married to for 13 years), she unearthed this piece of her roots 20 years after its recording, after his passing. Having performed onstage with Dr. John, Phoebe Snow, Jon Bon Jovi, and Billy Preston, CoCo continues to helm the production and engineering of her work with Whitlock, including their well-received 2013 album Carnival.

This year, Bobby Whitlock has been ensconced in the studio recording an as-yet-untitled album, with musicians as varied as Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones), Charley Drayton (The Divinyls), Colin Linden (guitarist), Nick Tremulis (guitarist), Stephen Barber, and of course CoCo Carmel on vocals and sax. With several documentaries on the horizon, a new record, and the fiftieth anniversary of Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs in 2020, the next few years should be very full and interesting.

On June 13, they‘ll be at  BB King’s Blues Club-with guest guitarist Ricky Byrd. We will be there.

BEE GEES — I just watched Sunday’s Bee Gees salute on CBS and just loved it. There’s no bigger Bee Gee fan than I and even though when I hear their music now and think about the loss of both Robin and Maurice, I get a bit chocked up, there’s no question that their music is timeless. Keith Urban just dazzled me with his version of “To Love Somebody.” Every time I see Urban, I am more and more impressed by him. Tonight’s performance was just stunning. Celine Dion’s take on “Immortality,” resonated more than ever, was just brilliant. She ended the song by walking down the stage and singing directly to Barry Gibb. It was a little bizarre, but the song, again, is more apt than ever before. 

John Travolta, on hand as the host, told some amazing stories, including the fact that the brothers wrote the 5 key songs for Saturday Night Fever literally in one weekend; and that although the working title of them movie was at first Saturday Night, when he and Robert Stigwood, the producer and the Bee Gees manager, heard the song “Night Fever,” both instantly knew the title should be Saturday Night Fever. John Legend and Stevie Wonder dove into “How Can You mend A Broken Heart,” which was pretty perfect, although Wonder didn’t sing, rather, just played his harmonica. That was odd, as Wonder does sing and has a beautiful voice. In all, just a great show (but, where was Streisand?), although Dion and Urban were the best by far. Barry Gibb, now, the lone Gibb Brother came out with an album of his own, In The Now (last October), that contained some brilliant songs but didn’t live up to the standards set by the brothers Gibb. A sad ending for sure to am legendary group. Love them!

SHORT TAKES — Donnie Kehr and Cori Gardner at the opening of Groundhog Day Monday night at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre (same theater where Jersey Boys started with Kehr in that play) … Our two new rock-star memoirs of the day are: Jimmy Webb’s The Cake and the Rain; and, Pamela Des Barres’ Let It Bleed-How To Write A Rockin’ Memoir. Man, they just do not stop … Kevin Spacey will host this year’s TONY awards on June 11, their 71st edition. Perfect choice, love Spacey … Bryan Cranston’s movie Wakefield is finally coming out. I saw this at the last Hamptons Film Festival and just loved it. Wakefield tells the what if story of a very successful lawyer, with a beautiful wife (Jennifer Garner) and two children, who one day … just doesn’t come home. A brilliant movie, not for everyone, but Cranston knocks it out of the park. Brilliant. He’s sure come a long way from Malcolm In The Middle …May 24 is the live debut of Honey West featuring Ian McDonald, at Bowery Electric at 7:30 PM.  May 19 is the release date for the album Bad Old World. Should be an excellent show … Songsmith Mike Greenly, who wrote the new Tony Moran-track (with Nile Rodgers on the guitar) “My Fire,” for Kimberly Davis, appears this Sunday on Joey Reynold’s  Sunday Night Live on ABC radio … After all the ways they’ve re-interpreted the Superman saga, believe it or not, they’ve come up with one more. Krypton bows this summer. Sort of Superman … before Superman. Here’s the clip: .

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