Roscoe Beck: From Poughkeepsie Junior Hippie To Austin Band Leader To LA Bass Player For Leonard Cohen …

Dr Pepper, Jazz, Blues, Joni Mitchell, & Leonard Cohen

Roscoe Beck, Musical Director and bass player for the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour and the impending 2012 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour, offers a delightful and compelling oral biography at Portrait of an Artist: Roscoe Beck by Rebecca McInroy (KUT, Austin. April 27, 2012).

Roscoe covers his early musical influences, his childhood fascination with Dr Pepper, his transition in third grade from drums to guitar and later to bass, his family’s move from Poughkeepsie, New York to  Atlanta, Texas, leaving home (with his parents consent) just before his senior year of high school to move to Austin to be part of the music scene there, the formation of James Polk & Co, the band that later became Passenger, and, of course meeting Leonard Cohen in LA.

Thanks Leonard, But We’ve Been Waiting To Hear From Joni

After hearing a  tape of Passenger, Roscoe’s band, Henry Lewy (Joni Mitchell’s producer and then Leonard Cohen’s producer as well) called to invite them to Los Angeles with the idea they might – no guarantees – serve as Joni Mitchel’s band for the Mingus album.

During that 1979 sojourn in LA, Lewy brought Leonard Cohen and Roscoe Beck together in the studio. Cohen, dressed in dark suit and cowboy boots, and Beck, who recalled Cohen in a flashback to a 1967 record store displaying posters for the Songs of Leonard Cohen album,  played “The Smokey Life” once, then added, on Beck’s suggestion, rhythm to the recording by way of Passenger’s drummer playing brushes on a cardboard box. Consequently, Passenger played on four songs of the Recent Songs album. Afterward, over margaritas, Leonard Cohen asked the band to tour Europe with him beginning in September of  that year. The band’s response?

Well, Leonard, you know, we’ve been waiting to hear from Joni.

After Beck and Passenger returned to Austin to make up for the income lost during their Los Angeles trip, Henry Lewy called, tersely recommending

Boys, take the tour with Leonard.

And they did.

The entire broadcast is a treat and can be heard at Portrait of an Artist: Roscoe Beck.

More Roscoe Beck

Of all the Q&A’s posted at Heck Of A Guy, Roscoe Beck’s is one of my top two personal favorites. His responses are informative, thoughtful, and entertaining.  This gem can be found at  Roscoe Beck On Leonard Cohen, The World’s Quietest Band, “Jenny Sings Lenny,” & More.

 Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post is by Erin Randall for KUT. The photo at the bottom was provided by Roscoe Beck.

One response to “Roscoe Beck: From Poughkeepsie Junior Hippie To Austin Band Leader To LA Bass Player For Leonard Cohen …

  1. I love me some Roscoe!