Tag Archives: Barry Tashian

For The Tashian Family, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’

Barry Tashian is a legendary name in Westport music history.

One of the founders of the Remains — who, with fellow Staples grad Bill Briggs, toured with the Beatles in 1966, starred on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo,” and were, in the words of Jon Landau, “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll” — he went on to play guitar with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmy Lou Harris.

A longtime resident of Nashville, he carved out a rewarding performing, recording and songwriting career alongside his wife, former Staples classmate Holly Kimball. She’s got a beautiful voice. Together, they’ve performed all over the world.

Now their son Daniel continues the Tashian tradition.

Daniel Tashian

In 2018 he produced “Golden Hour” for Kacey Musgraves. Daniel also wrote 7 of the tracks, played multiple instruments and provided background vocals. Both the Country Music Association and Apple Music named it Album of the Year.

It’s been nominated for 4 Grammy Awards. Winners will be announced next month.

But one thing is certain: Like his dad and mom, no matter what genre, Daniel Tashian rocks.

Beatles’ Final Tour Remains In Westport’s Memory

Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.

Also, the Remains’.

For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.

Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.

By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).

Untitled

Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.

They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.

Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”

But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)

Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.

Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.

The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.

Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”

Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:

“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.

“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”

What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.

He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.

The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.

The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Brad Tursi Kicks It In Nashville

When Brad Tursi was a Staples High School soccer star in the mid-1990s, he dreamed of playing before huge crowds in big stadiums.

He’ll do exactly that tomorrow, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

But he won’t be kicking a soccer ball. Instead, the 1997 Staples grad will kick it big-time with his band, Old Dominion. They open for Kenny Chesney, on the country megastar’s summer tour.

Brad Tursi

Brad Tursi

The road from Westport to Nashville is not well traveled. But Tursi is not the first Staples alum to make his name there.

Charlie Taylor graduated from Staples in 1961. After roaming from Greenwich Village to LA — with stops in between — Taylor spent the last 3 decades in Tennessee. He’s recorded with, written with and for, jammed with and learned from the likes of Gram Parsons, Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, Barbara Mandrell, Rick Nelson and Barry Tashian.

Tashian is also a Staples grad. His route to Nashville began in Boston, where he fronted the legendary rock group The Remains. They opened for The Beatles on their final tour, appeared on Ed Sullivan and Hullabaloo, and were called by Jon Landau “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Brad Tursi continues a small but strong Westport-to-Nashville connection.

Brad Tursi continues the Westport-to-Nashville connection.

After the group broke up, Tashian landed in Nashville. He’s been there ever since, playing with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmy Lou Harris, and carving out (with his wife, Staples classmate Holly Kimball) a rewarding performing, recording and songwriting career.

Tursi continues that small but strong Westport connection. He co-wrote “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” — a certified gold song that Tyler Farr took to #1 earlier this year — and “Save It For a Rainy Day” for Chesney.

Tursi’s band Old Dominion got a shout-out last month from Sony Music CEO Doug Morris.

In an interview in The Tennessean newspaper, Morris predicted that the band  would join Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks as providing “a new foundation for the company’s country music division.” The day after he heard Old Dominion’s EP, the 76-year-old CEO was singing their lyrics.

You probably are not headed to MetLife Stadium tomorrow, for the Kenny Chesney concert. But if you want to hear the opening band — Old Dominion — check out the video below.

Brad Tursi’s 2nd from the right, manning the oars.

(Hat tip: John Guadagno)

After Nearly 50 Years, The Remains Come Home

The last time the Remains played in Fairfield County was 1966. The legendary rock group was a few months away from opening for the Beatles, on that legendary band’s final tour. Now they were at Staples High School, the alma mater of half their members: guitarist/vocalist Barry Tashian and keyboardist Billy Briggs.

Rock critic Jon Landau had already described the Remains as “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

That 1966 gig was to raise money for the Orphenians’ — Staples’ select choral group — upcoming tour of the Virgin Islands.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

Westporters and Remains Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.

After that Beatles tour, the Remains broke up. Rolling Stone magazine later called them “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

They reunited a decade later, for a few dates. But Tashian joined Emmy Lou Harris’ band, and moved to California. In the 1990s, he and his wife — 1964 Staples grad Holly Kimball — formed a Nashville-based duo.

Then, in the mid-’90s, a promoter invited them to play in Spain. They were up for it — and so were their rabid European fans. They played a couple of dates every year since.

In June 2013 they rocked the Bell House in Brooklyn. They were excited about their half-century return to this area: a gig in Fairfield this past April.

But in February, drummer Chip Damiani died of a brain hemorrhage.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

The loss of their “brother” — whose pounding drums helped drive the group to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — stunned the 3 remaining Remains.

But the show must go on. In August — the day after Holly’s 50th Staples reunion, where she and Barry (SHS ’63) played and sang — the band auditioned new drummers. They chose George Correia, who played with Clarence Clemmons and, Tashian says, “locked right in to what we do.”

On Friday, September 26, the Remains return to Fairfield County for the 1st time since 1966. They venue is the Fairfield Theatre Company (7:45 p.m.), and they are as amped as when they played with the Beatles (and Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle and the Ronettes).

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

“When Chip died, we really understood the saying ‘You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry,” Tashian says.

“Losing Chip makes us appreciate what we have even more. We look at each other and say, ‘How could it be 50 years?’ But it is. And we’re committed to each other — to our brothers — totally. We’re spread across Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nashville, but we really are a family.”

In just a few days, they’ll see plenty of Westport fans who for years have been part of that Remains family too.

(For information and tickets to the Remains’ September 26 show, click here.)

The Big Five-Oh

“06880” is fair game for just about every story — so long as there’s a Westport angle. 

I try to avoid missing-pet posts — though I did cover the expensive, long-running search for Andy, the lost corgi — and I turn down nearly every request about a Staples High School reunion. Trust me, I say to myself: No one cares about your little get-together. (My official response is more tactful.)

But Staples’ Class of 1964 reunion last weekend merits a mention. For one thing, the 50th is a Big Deal.

For another, it was a kick-ass class that came of age at an important time in Staples — and world — history.

For a 3rd, I gave a tour of the new Staples building to nearly 100 reunees. They truly loved what they saw, and appreciated the school they’d attended. They returned to Westport with the wisdom of adulthood, and the enthusiasm of teenagers. I had a blast, but they had an even better time. 

The Staples Class of 1964  included many outstanding actors, singers and athletes. Two members -- Paul McNulty (2nd from left) and Laddie Lawrence (6th from left) are back at Staples now, coaching lacrosse and track respectively.

The Staples Class of 1964 included many outstanding actors, singers and athletes. Two members — Paul McNulty (2nd from left) and Laddie Lawrence (6th from left) are back at Staples now, coaching lacrosse and track respectively.

So here — thanks to Barbara Range Szepesi, Arline Gertzoff and Bill Martin — is their report.

Many of them more than 100 members of the Class of ’64 who gathered last weekend were reunion first-timers who faced the experience with trepidation, deferring registration until the last possible moment. Others came only because another class member promised to be there. While many members of the class live locally, others came from all over the country: California, Florida, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee.

What happened was nothing short of amazing: the rekindling of friendships and more after 50 years of separation, the mixing of a vast cross-section of class members who might never have interacted during a normal school day, the bonding power of shared experience then and 3 days now.

The celebration kicked off Friday night, August 8, at SoNo Brewhouse. Gordon Hall, a beloved history teacher at Staples, reminisced with students he fondly remembered and just had to see.  Jack White, a pillar of education in Weston, shared memories with pupils who once were bused to Staples (there was no high school in the then-small town).

On Saturday morning, a large cohort toured the new Staples, so very different from the California-style campus of 50 years ago. Astonishment at how much the school has changed mixed with the realization of the great education we received there. We were the class that started senior year traumatized by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and seeing the “Ask not…” plaque from our class in the new courtyard only heightened our remembrances.

When the Class of 1964 entered Staples, the school consisted of 6 separate buildings. Walking between them was often an adventure.

When the Class of 1964 entered Staples, the school consisted of 6 separate buildings. Walking between them was often an adventure.

The gala reunion dinner was held at the Red Barn on Saturday night. Classmates feasted and were entertained by members of their own class. Eric Multhaup, Melody James, Sylvia Robinson Corrigan and Bettina Walton updated songs of the ’60s for today. Mike Haydn played both Mozart and an original piano piece, accompanied by Bill Reardon on the drums. Bill Briggs and Linda Clifford performed a duet. Holly Kimball Tashian and husband Barry Tashian (’63) played selections from their Nashville repertoire.

As memorialized in a poem written for the occasion by Josh Markel, it was a time for reflection and celebration. So much changed in the course of 50 years, not the least of which was hair color (or lack thereof). We had married or not, had children and grandchildren, sometimes divorced and started over again.  Careers spanned law, medicine and teaching; drama, art and music; business, social work, and beyond.

On Sunday classmates socialized at Compo Beach, a favorite haunt of 50 years ago. There, before a final class picture, quietly singing “Amazing Grace,” we approached the water and tossed 43 red roses into the Sound for the classmates we have lost and still hold dear.

Everyone stayed until the day ended with handshakes, hugs, and the hope to meet again in 5 years.

43 red roses honor members of the Class of 1964 who are gone.

43 red roses honor members of the Class of 1964 who are gone.

Remains Drummer Chip Damiani Dies

Chip Damiani — whose pounding drums helped drive the Remains to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — died today, of a massive brain hemorrhage.

The Remains — who besides Chip included Staples grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs, plus Vern Miller — had been preparing for a special show in Fairfield in April. It was scheduled for the end of the Fairfield Museum and History Center‘s current exhibit saluting area musical legends.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield Museum and History Center’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of photos of his legendary band, the Reamins. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The Remains were — quite simply — America’s best rock band.  Ever.

Jon Landau said they were “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Unfortunately, they broke up — right after touring America with the Beatles, a bit after performing on “Ed  Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” 

It took them decades to get back together. When they did, they picked up right where they left off. In fact, they were better than ever.

Chip Damiani, doing what he loved most.

Chip Damiani, doing what he loved most.

I was fortunate enough to be in Gail and Terry Coen’s Westport basement studio the 1st time they rehearsed for a European reunion tour, a decade or so ago. It was one of the most magical moments of my life. And no one was happier to be back than Chip.

The Remains got together regularly after that. They were the subject of an off-Broadway show (“All Good Things”) and a documentary (“America’s Lost Band”).

They all had separate lives, of course — hey, they’re in their mid-60s. Barry has had a long career as a musician in Nashville. Bill is a luxury automobile dealer. Vern is a high school music teacher. Chip was a roofer.

But at heart, Chip was a drummer. He played regularly with any band he could find. And every summer, he was at Gail and Terry’s 4th of July party on Soundview Drive. The food and fireworks were fun. But the highlight of the night — for Chip, and anyone fortunate enough to listen — was the midnight jam session that followed, down in the basement. As his bandmate Barry Tashian marveled, “He still played like a teenager.”

“All good things don’t have to end,” the Remains sang.

For Chip Damiani, the life he loved ended far, far too soon.

Remembering Jeanne Kimball

Jeanne Kimball — the longtime Westport musician, music teacher and music lover who died at 96 on December 30 — was a much-loved woman.

Her obituary lists the dates and accomplishments of her life:

  • She moved here in 1953 with her husband Fred.
  • In the mid-’50s she founded the Westport Madrigal Singers and Unitarian Church choir.  She served on the board of the Connecticut Alliance for Music, and was very involved in their annual Young Artists Competition.
  • In 1998 she was honored with Westport’s Arts Heritage Award.

But facts are only one part of someone’s life.  Memories mean much more.

Joy Kimball Overstreet — one of Jeanne’s 3 daughters — sent these thoughts along:

Jeanne Kimball at 95.

“Mom adored Fred (and was adored by him) from the time they met at 17 at a Unitarian church camp, till the day he died 63 years later.  His return from work was the highlight of her day.  She changed into ‘something nice’ just for him.  While dinner (and we kids) waited, they retreated into the living room for cocktails together.”

After he retired, if he wanted to sail for the weekend she put aside her own plans, packed food, and “happily poked around the Sound with him on his tiny boat.”  They slept in sleeping bags alongside the centerboard.

She managed most of Fred’s care during 2 years of cancer treatments.  After he died in 1994 she took on more singing students, and kept up her garden.  She loved arranging fresh flowers and greens, and putting up fruits and vegetables.

Her students cherished their time with her.  Her vocal coaching style was direct.  For her, singing was communication.  She was a vocal coach practically to her last breath.  Two days before she sank into unconsciousness,  when her nephews sang her carols, she weakly waved her hand.

“Not ‘happy new YEAR,'” she whispered.  “It’s ‘happy NEW year.’  Emphasize what’s most important.”

“Her ambitions were modest,” Joy said.  “She was content to be a homemaker and ‘hobbyist’ musician.  Still, the upcoming concert had to be the best it could, and enough tickets needed to be sold to pay the director’s small salary.

“Now and then there would be talk of making the Madrigals professional, with concert tours and a recording contract, but she was perfectly happy staying local and amateur.”

Jeanne Kimball at 84, making flower arrangements for her granddaughter's wedding.

A few years ago, in failing health, she moved into an addition built onto her daughter Holly and son-in-law Barry Tashian’s home in Nashville.  (Both have enjoyed long and successful careers as professional musicians.)

Almost to the end, she chopped carrots and celery.  She did daily vocal warmups at the piano.  Family, neighbors, visitors, the dog — “whoever was around” — participated.

“She never let go of her manners, her sense of humor and her delight in the wonders of being alive,” Joy said.  “She always expressed interest in visitors’ lives and asked appropriate questions, even when the answers mystified her and were instantly forgotten.”

Despite a drastic decline in her thinking abilities, she remained “cheerful, grateful and happy to be wherever she was.”

And thousands of Westporters — touched by her music teaching, promotion or playing — remain grateful and happy to have had Jeanne Kimball in their lives.

(A memorial service will be held Sat., April 2 at Westport’s Unitarian Church.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Rd., Westport CT 06880, or the Unitarian Universalist Association, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108.  Condolences and remembrances can be emailed to Faith Lyons: faith1943@verizon.net.)

The Remains Of Boston

This Sunday’s Boston Music Awards will be fun.

Artists like Josh Ritter, Peter Wolf and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are contending for honors.  Musicians, music lovers and industry hotshots will gather at the Liberty Hotel to hear the winners announced, dance, and raise money for music charities across New England.

They’ll hear performances by DOM, Jennie Dee & the Deelinquents, Mystery Roar, Kingsley Flood, Kon and many others I have (thankfully) never heard of.

But when the Remains take the stage, the place will party like it’s 1965.

The Remains then...

The band — featuring Westport natives Barry Tashian and Billy Briggs — will be inducted that night into the Boston Music Awards Hall of Fame.  They join previous inductees like Carly Simon — musicians with Boston ties who have influenced the industry.

If you’ve never heard of the Remains — especially if you’ve never heard them — I feel sorry for you.

Formed at Boston University, they were — quite simply — America’s best rock band.  Ever.

Jon Landau said they were “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

That was the key.  They broke up.

It was an unfortunate breakup — it happened right after they toured America with the Beatles, a bit after they performed on “Ed  Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo” — and it took them decades to get back together.

But reunite they did, a few years ago.  They were the subject of an off-Broadway show (“All Good Things”) and a documentary (“America’s Lost Band”).

...and now.

They’ve played concerts across North America and Europe, thrilling old fans and introducing new ones to the joys of kick-ass, hard-driving, rock-solid rock ‘n’ roll.

I’m sure some people will go the ceremony because of Josh Ritter and Peter Wolf.  Others will want to see Jennie Dee & the Deelinquents, Mystery Roar or Kingsley Flood (whoever they are).

But when the night is over — I guarantee — all anyone will talk about is the Remains.

All That Remains

Marilyn Chambers’ untimely death earlier this week shined a spotlight on Westport, where she grew up.  But Marilyn was not the only famous member of her family.

Long before Marilyn opened the green door, her brother Billy Briggs was on his own way to stardom.  As keyboardist for the legendary Remains, Billy appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Hullabaloo.”  He toured with the Beatles — and, with fellow Westporter Barry Tashian and 2 bandmates, camethisclose to being the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll group ever.

The Remains never made it to the top.  In the midst of that 1966 Beatles tour, they were already breaking up.

But they remain cult heroes.  Jon Landau‘s praise — “They were how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll” — is as true today as it was 42 years ago.

Now, when many people their age are retiring, the Remains are finally getting their due.  On the big screen.

The Remains - Barry Tashian (2nd from left); Billy Briggs (far right)

The Remains - Barry Tashian (2nd from left); Billy Briggs (far right)

Westport native Fred Cantor — a few years younger than the Remains, but (like me) a long time ardent admirer — is the producer and driving force behind “America’s Lost Band.” That new documentary — narrated by the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf, another early fan — weaves rare archival footage and flashbacks with the Remains’ current lives.  Believe it or not, they’re still playing kick-ass music — including at film festivals across the country, where fans old and new  gather to worship at their altar.

“America’s Lost Band” premiered at the Boston Film Festival, to great reviews.  Screenings in Chicago and Providence played to wildly enthusiastic audiences.  Next week it’s in Nashville and Portland, Oregon; on April 28 it’s one of only 4 films picked for the “Celluloid  Heroes:  Rock ‘n’ Roll on Film” series at New Orleans’ Ponderosa Stomp Music Festival.

How good were the Remains?

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt, called the Remains “living history, and one of our most valued American treasures.”

And Rolling Stone magazine described them as “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

Billy Briggs and Barry Tashian have not forgotten their Westport roots.  They rehearse here often, in their friends Terry and Gail Coen’s basement studio.  Their many Westport friends never forgot them either.

Now — thanks to another Westporter’s passion and movie-making skills — the entire country is rediscovering them.

And now for a treat:  To hear the Remains, click here. My recommendations (from the scroll-down list that appears on the right side of the linked page):  Start with “Hang on Sloopy” and “I’m a Man,” followed by a 3rd live song: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”  Next, 2 album cuts: “Diddy Wah Diddy” and “Why Do I Cry.”  But whatever you listen to: CRANK IT UP!