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Eric Chesher and Brian Brown of Infrared Studio Productions



Listen to Learn:

  • About Mary Lou Williams and her influence in the jazz world
  • The right way to practice any instrument
  • How the internet changed the music and recording business
  • Technical differences between drum sticks and brushes

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Eric Chesher received a BA in Music Performance degrees in vocal performance and piano performance and a B.S. pre-med in Biology and Psychology from Heidelberg University, located in Tiffin Ohio. He is a Producer/Engineer with over 25 years experience in the Music Industry in performance, writing, producing, management, and marketing. His resume’ includes Capital Records, Bunker Studios, RCA, sales training and event marketing for Yamaha, Kawai, Baldwin, Steinway, and event marketing for dealers across the United States. He presently works as manager of Steinway Piano Gallery Little Rock and as producer at Infrared Studio Productions.

Brian Brown was born in Maine. He was lucky enough to have a father that loved Music, especially Jazz. At 14 Brian had his first gig. Over his teen years he was exposed to a number of truly great players and performed with many of them, including Louis Armstrong, Howard McGhee, Charlie Mariano, Benny Golson and many others. Over his career, he has played with a wide variety of musicians; he performed with Lightnin’ Hopkins in the 1970’s as a duo. At the same time, he was involved with a fusion band that was an opening act for Weather Report and Ramsey Lewis.

He moved to Arkansas in 1983. He has performed with local and touring musicians for concerts and musical theater. He recently performed with Herbie Hancock. He has been part of the Ted Ludwig Trio since 2005.



Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com

TRANSCRIPT

EPISODE 192

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative, and always encouraging weekly blog. Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:33] KM: Thank you, Gray. My guest today, that's guests with an S, are both musicians and both work at Infrared Studios in Mayflower, Arkansas. Mr. Eric Chesher for over 25 years has been producing music for some of the largest recording studios in the industry. His resume includes Capital Records, RCA, and today, he is laying down tracks for himself and other musicians at Infrared Studios. In addition, Eric predictably holds a BA in music performance in both vocal and piano. Confusingly, he also has a BS degree in pre-med for biology and psychology. I can't wait to hear how that turn of events happened and is his mother happy about it?

Accompanying Eric Chesher today is Mr. Brian Brown. Born in the most northern region of the United States, Maine. Brian's father loved jazz and feathered his son's skill as a drummer. As early as age 14, Brian began performing, and over his teen years would have the pleasure of learning from and sitting in with such legends as Louis Armstrong, Howard McGee, Benny Golson, and many others. Throughout his career, Brian continued to play with a wide variety of musicians, including Lightnin’ Hopkins, opening for Ramsey Lewis, and more recently performed with Herbie Hancock. Is that true?

[0:02:05] BB: Yeah.

[0:02:05] KM: Okay. In 1983, Brian moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. I can't wait to hear that story. Today is part of the Ted Ludwig Trio, and like his fellow musician and studio member Eric, helps produce music at Infrared Studios in Mayflower, Arkansas. It is with great pleasure, welcome to the table, not one, but two well-trained musicians and Infrared Studios members, pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher, and drummer, Mr. Brian Brown. Welcome, guys.

[0:02:33] EC: Thanks for having us.

[0:02:34] BB: Thank you.

[0:02:35] KM: I've got to tell everybody that Eric, you were here last week.

[0:02:38] EC: Yes, I was. You came with the Steinway, exclusive Steinway dealer in town, Steinway & Sons, Stephen Wirges, and you are the Steinway & Sons’ manager.

[0:02:50] EC: Yeah. When Steinway approached Steve to open the store, he quickly realized that I had had my own piano company for years and had been in the business for many, many years. I think part of receiving the Steinway gallery was that they knew that he had some pretty good support standing behind him, and I agreed to help. He decided, he had to call me something. He calls me the store manager, which I get a kick out of.

[0:03:16] KM: Like Stephen, you brought a guest, too. Fellow musician and drummer, Mr. Brian Brown. Last week, Eric, you and I – I talked to Stephen a lot and towards the end, you and I got to talking. I found out how interesting you are. I was like, “Please, come back this week.” I invited you back.

[0:03:31] EC: Thank you so much.

[0:03:32] KM: You're welcome. Just like Stephen, you brought a friend, another really interesting musician. Brian. Hello, Brian.

[0:03:39] BB: Hello. Thanks for having me.

[0:03:40] KM: Well, I enjoyed reading about you. You have played with every great person that ever played jazz in the United States, and probably outside. But how did you two guys first meet and become friends?

[0:03:54] BB: Actually, it was at the Herbie Hancock gig.

[0:03:58] EC: That's right.

[0:03:59] KM: Oh, so y'all haven't known each other very long?

[0:04:01] EC: No.

[0:04:02] BB: No, 2008.

[0:04:03] EC: 2008.

[0:04:04] BB: Yeah. He gave me one of the finest intros I've ever had.

[0:04:08] KM: What does that mean? What did you do?

[0:04:10] EC: I was the emcee for the grand opening.

[0:04:11] BB: He was the emcee.

[0:04:13] EC: I got to announce him to come out on stage.

[0:04:16] BB: This was just about the time he and Dr. Rex Bell, who owns Infrared, got together. Like they say, the rest is history. We just over the years, got to know each other. I first played with Dr. Bell back in the 90s, I think. It was a long time. Didn't do a lot of work with him. But as things went, then the history of the studio unfolded, I ended up becoming part of the staff.

[0:04:47] KM: Well, I read about Dr. Bell, because Stephen, you sent me his –

[0:04:50] EC: He's amazing.

[0:04:51] KM: Yeah. I thought, well, he was called Dr. Bell, because he had a PhD in music, or something?

[0:04:56] BB: No.

[0:04:57] EC: No.

[0:04:58] KM: Tell our listeners why he's called Dr. Bell.

[0:05:00] EC: He's a pathologist at Baptist Hospital.

[0:05:02] KM: That just blows me away.

[0:05:05] EC: He's amazing. That's all I can say.

[0:05:07] KM: When did he started Infrared Studio?

[0:05:09] EC: We started officially right in 2007, I guess, would be when we officially kicked off. The building that we were in had opened, I think, a little before that. During that process, I didn't know him, and the person that built that particular building knew me through the piano business. I had helped him with some sales throughout the years. He called me and said, “You got to come up and see this building that I've built.” Little did I know, it was a ploy. He is not good in front of cameras and things and had Herbie Hancock coming in for the weekend. I ended up being the emcee, and ended up actually staying onboard and help him –

[0:05:46] KM: Which building did he build?

[0:05:47] EC: It was called the Windsong Performing Arts Center. It is no longer in existence.

[0:05:51] KM: Was it right there where 430 met –

[0:05:54] EC: Yes, right at the junction.

[0:05:55] KM: - 630 at that – that huge building that I think now is a church?

[0:05:59] EC: Yes. That's where our studio was originally.

[0:06:02] KM: I remember when they built that. Was that the recession of 2008 that hit?

[0:06:06] EC: Yes. When the banks crashed, the gentleman that had built that building was stuck in a real hard financial place. And so, he ended up selling to the Oasis Church. At that time, I had known Dr. Bell just briefly. He played piano during the first talent search we did to get the studio up and running. I had no idea that he had actually purchased all the equipment for the studio and really owned it. He caught me in the hallway one fateful day and said, “Hey, I'd like to keep this going, but we're going to need to move. I can't do it, unless I have some help.”

[0:06:44] KM: Did Dr. Bell build the actual building himself?

[0:06:47] EC: No. That was a different man. But he funded and purchased all the equipment for the studio.

[0:06:54] KM: He couldn't afford the rent there anymore, so he was like –

[0:06:57] EC: Well, the building was sold.

[0:06:57] KM: Oh, the building was sold.

[0:06:58] EC: Yeah. We had to move.

[0:07:00] KM: Okay. That's an interesting guy, Dr. Bell. To continue on his biography, because he's not here, we can talk about him.

[0:07:06] EC: He's amazing.

[0:07:07] KM: He released two jazz CDs on the Infrared label. Does the Infrared Studios have a label?

[0:07:13] EC: When we first opened, we had a very small label. That was to help the people that were coming in our studio. We built the studio to give artists in this area a good, safe place to come, to where they didn't –

[0:07:27] KM: You always said that. You said that last week. A safe place. I'm like, what does that mean?

[0:07:33] EC: Well, what typically happens if you live in a small town and somewhere in the United States and you are found to have some talent and you want to try to move forward with that, your only options are to go to Nashville, go to New York, go to Chicago, go to LA. You have to physically pick up and leave and go and try and make it. What we see happen so often is that if you end up having a little success, you end up with people all around you that don't know how to say the word no, or you get taken advantage of. The music business is a brutal, brutal, hard course.

[0:08:07] KM: It's safe, because you can practice your art without feeling like you're going to be taken advantage of.

[0:08:13] EC: Yes. You can come here and you can go home at night and you can still have your family around you. Yet, we can provide everything that you would get if you –

[0:08:20] KM: But you can't make a good living here. Can you? Well, you are.

[0:08:24] EC: Yes, you can. There's so much talent everywhere.

[0:08:27] KM: We're going to talk about that. Let's talk about Dr. Bell. He released these two jazz CDs that have been nationally recognized on NPR's audio file audition. His performed music at the Kennedy Center.

[0:08:39] EC: He's always writing. Rex is probably, and he's probably listening right now, so he's getting mad at me already, but Rex is probably the finest player that I've ever met.

[0:08:50] KM: That's what Stephen Wirges said about you last week.

[0:08:53] EC: Well, I'm pretty darn good. In my travels, I could always hang in there. Then I heard Rex Bell play. He has an extraordinary talent. Combined with that, though, is a real desire to help other artists. I believe this. He would never say this. But I believe that he started the studio for two reasons. One, selfish, so he could have his place, best quality, best production to record his music. He's a phenomenal writer and arranger of the highest order. You combine that with his ability to play. I've seen throughout the years working with him that he also has a great hand that he reaches out to artists. We charge $50 per hour.

[0:09:37] KM: That’s pretty cheap.

[0:09:38] EC: It is ridiculous. Yeah.

[0:09:40] KM: What is a normal person charged?

[0:09:41] EC: If you were in Nashville with the studio, with the equipment that we have and the expertise we have, you'd be at $150 to $250 an hour in a blink of an eye.

[0:09:51] KM: You guys love it.

[0:09:53] EC: Yes.

[0:09:53] BB: Oh, yeah.

[0:09:55] KM: Because Dr. Rex Bell is a pathologist and studies human tissues and diagnoses this human disease, did he give you all the inside scoop on COVID19? Did y'all know it was coming before we did?

[0:10:06] EC: No.

[0:10:08] BB: No.

[0:10:09] KM: All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversations with the well-trained musicians from Infrared Studio pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher, and drummer, Brian Brown. We'll be back after the break.

[BREAK]

[0:10:23] ANNOUNCER: In the past couple of months, there have been some very special guests on Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. There are lots of ways that you can re-listen to those programs. You can go to the Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy YouTube channel and watch the videos. Or if you go to flagandbander.com and click on radio show, you can listen to the podcasts. They feature everyone from Chris Olson, the famous landscape designer, to Edward Haddock, the director of the Arkansas Small Business Administration. Mike Beebe, the 45th governor of Arkansas, was featured on the show recently. Also, journalist and musician, Stephanie Smittle and Steven Koch from the famous Arkansongs Program were guests on the show recently. Finally, Stepheen Wirges. He runs one of only 60 Steinway piano galleries in the whole world and it's in Mayflower. He appeared on Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Please, check out the podcast directory at flagandbander.com, or look at the Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy YouTube channel.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[0:11:18] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher, and drummer, Brian Brown, studio members at Infrared Studio in Mayflower, Arkansas, with owner, Dr. Rex Bell. Didn't you tell me you brought some music? Was it Rex's music you brought, or was it –

[0:11:37] EC: I brought a sampling from our studio. The first piece that we'll play is my house band, The Fantastic Rex Bell Trio. He wrote pieces about the great women throughout history. This piece is about Mary Lou Williams, who was, I don't know if she was the first, but she was one of the first African-American women to just dominate the jazz world. Started her own record label, worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Monk. She is a powerhouse in the business. She was born in 1910 and died in 1981. Think about the time frame that she did all that in. She's an amazing human.

[0:12:17] KM: What's her name?

[0:12:18] EC: Mary Lou Williams.

[0:12:19] KM: Who all plays on this?

[0:12:21] EC: You have Rex Bell on the piano. We have Brian Brown on drums and the amazing Joe Vic on the upright bass.

[0:12:28] KM: Oh, yeah.

[0:12:28] EC: I can't remember if I orchestrated anything in this or not. I don't think so.

[0:12:32] KM: Did you play the piano?

[0:12:33] EC: No, no. Rex is the player.

[0:12:35] KM: Oh, yeah. That's right.

[0:12:35] EC: Yes. I, of course, produced it and recorded it.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[0:14:21] KM: How do we know – I love it. It's wonderful. Yes. How do we know that it's about Mary? There's no words.

[0:14:30] EC: When he released the album, there was a booklet, and he actually did the bios and the backgrounds of all these people.

[0:14:35] KM: Are these the type of – I don't know anything about music, I'm sorry. Are these the type of chords that she played, or the way she – or the riffs, or how do you say that?

[0:14:44] EC: Rex wrote the music for each woman based on his impression of them and what they did throughout their lives. I'm sure in the case of Mary Lou Williams, this has hints of her –

[0:14:54] KM: Her style.

[0:14:55] EC: Her style, yes.

[0:14:57] KM: That's really wonderful. I really loved it. Before the break, we talked about Infrared Studio and how y'all met and how you met Brian Brown. Now, Eric, let's talk about how your love of music began. Did your parents play?

[0:15:09] EC: My mother was a player. It's odd that I remember her playing three songs mostly. Doctor Zhivago, Love Theme, was just played every day in my house.

[0:15:21] KM: Well, that's good.

[0:15:22] EC: She was such a good player. She would never talk about it much about her own playing. She never forced us to do it. I started playing piano, because my older sister started playing. About two years into her lessons, I was maybe three or four-years-old, grandma and grandpa came to visit and they found out that Amy, my older sister, was taking piano lessons and they asked if she would play something. So, she did, and of course, they clapped. I said, “Oh, no. I want that.” I took off. I started playing piano when I was three.

[0:15:56] KM: Wow, that's really early.

[0:15:57] EC: Yeah.

[0:15:58] KM: Why did you go to school for a BS to be pre-med? If you knew you loved piano from day one. When did you start playing, performing? Did you start performing in high school?

[0:16:11] EC: I performed in high school, like most typical high school kids was. It wasn't really until I went to college that I really started writing. That was my main thing, writing and playing and singing originals and started doing concerts and things. I've always been torn in my life. I am a man of science. I love it with all my soul, but also, music calls me.

[0:16:30] KM: Which one did you plan on doing? Were you going to be a doctor?

[0:16:33] EC: Well, it's a funny story. My dad was an orthodontist and his name is John Emerson Chesher and I'm Eric John Chesher. If you look at our initials. I think he had a dream that one day when he retired, he would just walk out to his sign and flip the E and the J around, and I would take over. I worked for him in his office all throughout high school and already, basically, could have walked through dental school. He taught me everything. At the end of my sophomore year, I decided that I was disappointing him enough, I was there on a full ride music scholarship –

[0:17:05] KM: You’re sophomore in college.

[0:17:06] EC: In college. I had gone to college on a full ride scholarship for music.

[0:17:11] KM: For music.

[0:17:12] EC: I actually decided at the end of my sophomore year that adding the pre-med degree would be a great idea. I called my dad and he was so happy. When I graduated college, one of the first calls I got was from Capitol Records. I had a decision to make. I was all set to go get my masters and then move on and in psych. In New York Health. So, away I went, and I've never looked back.

[0:17:36] KM: I thought it’d been your mother that was disappointed. It was your father.

[0:17:39] EC: Well, I have two memories of my mother. One is I'm about five-years-old and I'm practicing, and she's standing behind me crying. I was very good at making her cry. Not from the beautiful music either. She's saying to me, “If you would only practice, how good you could be.” Move forward to where I'm about 16-years-old. I'm still sitting at the same piano practicing and she's standing behind me, still crying, true story. She says to me, “If this is all you want to do, you should just go to New York now, because you're throwing your life away.” Because I would do nothing, but play music all day long. She was getting upset.

[0:18:13] KM: First, she wants you to practice, then she doesn't want you to practice. Yeah. You went to New York.

[0:18:22] EC: Yeah. When I graduated college. The other piece to my life also, when I was in sixth grade, I think, we took a tour of the Baldwin Factory that was in my hometown. I became fascinated on how pianos were made. I actually asked the guy giving us the tour if I could work there. Being a kind man, he said, “Oh, sure.” Well, he was kidding. But I didn't think he was kidding. I went home and told my dad that I had a job, and I told him it'd have to be the weekends, because I had to go to school.

My dad, of course, said, “No, he was being nice.” But I insisted so much that he drove me down there the next Saturday. They found this poor guy that had given us the tour. Well, they didn't know what to do with me, so they said, “Fine. Come on in.” They made me a T-shirt. It said, “Baldwin Brat” on it. I got to –

[0:19:08] KM: Oh, that’s cute.

[0:19:09] EC: Every weekend, I went to the factory and learned how to make pianos and saw the whole process. Also, there was a local Baldwin dealer.

[0:19:17] KM: Did they pay you?

[0:19:18] EC: No. But the local Baldwin dealer did. He gave me a job at age 12, and I learned how to sell and run a music store from the ground up from this man –

[0:19:27] KM: How old were you when your dad started driving you down there?

[0:19:30] EC: Maybe fifth, or sixth grade, or something. I don't know. I was maybe 11-years-old, maybe.

[0:19:33] KM: You can't do that now. It's against the law.

[0:19:34] EC: No, I know.

[0:19:35] KM: If you did that now, everybody would be too much responsibility, lawsuit. I can't help somebody that's ambitious young. You have to lay around your house and play video games today.

[0:19:45] EC: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. This is really the link that ended up with me and Stephen Wirges being, working – me helping him. When I went to New York, I wasn't supposed to start at Capitol Records for about three months or so. I decided, gosh, I've been doing all this work in pianos. Maybe I'll call Steinway, because they're here. I did. I got to go on Steinway sales floor and sell Steinways for the first time.

[0:20:07] KM: How old are you then?

[0:20:08] EC: I've just graduated college. Yeah.

[0:20:11] KM: You went up there to be with –

[0:20:12] EC: With Capitol Records. But I had about a three-month window before I could really start.

[0:20:18] KM: They would hire you for a lousy little three months. I wouldn't hire anybody for three months.

[0:20:21] EC: I didn't tell them.

[0:20:23] KM: Oh. Bait the switch.

[0:20:25] GM: I think you've given me that advice before, mom.

[0:20:27] KM: What?

[0:20:28] EC: GM: Don't tell them you're going to quit in three months.

[0:20:32] KM: Shh. Gray, son. Let's talk about all the things. You call yourself a producer engineer, but you're also an artist with music, which we've been talking about with performance degrees. You've been in the music industry for, I think, at least 25 years.

[0:20:45] EC: A long time.

[0:20:48] KM: Yeah. Performance. Did you ever perform?

[0:20:50] EC: Yes, I did. I got pulled away from it, the more I got into the producing side. But it never really left me. I think, once you perform, you'll always perform. Got to work with Richard Marks and some other names throughout the time. What happened was Capitol Records realized early on that I had a pretty good ear. Back in those days, you could –

[0:21:11] KM: What did they hire you for?

[0:21:12] EC: I was, for the worst job ever. I would sit in a room, me and one other guy who was above me. He was my boss. Back in those days, you were allowed to send, if you were an aspiring writer or singer, you could just send your music in on tapes. You would just send them in. Someone would actually listen to them. My job was to sit in this room and open up, put the tape in and listen. Between me and my boss, we would decide, it goes in the round file, or –

[0:21:38] KM: Some little kid that just graduated high school is deciding on the music that we're going to listen to?

[0:21:44] EC: Pretty much.

[0:21:44] KM: Wow.

[0:21:45] EC: No, I'm kidding. What we had to decide was, in my boss's opinion, because he was sitting there. Usually, what happened was the band we were listening to might be great, but the music they were writing was awful.

[0:21:58] KM: What does that mean? The music their –

[0:21:59] EC: The songs were bad, but the band was good. Or the band's really awful, but listen to those songs. If there was any nugget of something that we felt we could do something with, we would pass it up the food chain. Then maybe one out of a billion of those, they would call down and I would be sent out to work with them. The worst assignment was in Georgia, working with a band called The Yellow Rose. They were a country band who dressed like the old Bon Jovi with the big hair and spandex.

[0:22:29] KM: What year was this?

[0:22:29] EC: Oh, my gosh. I have no – I mean, I was 23-years-old.

[0:22:33] KM: That seems like a really good job for a 23-year-old.

[0:22:36] EC: It was cool. When I was in Georgia, then I re-hooked up with Yamaha, another great piano maker. I helped all the local dealers there in my spare time with MIDI and keyboards and training their salespeople.

[0:22:50] KM: If a kid goes to college right now for music performance, is there somebody going to call them and ask them to come do this same job, or does that job even exist?

[0:22:57] EC: No.

[0:22:58] KM: Oh, no. How does that work today? Look, Brian's shaking his head. No.

[0:23:01] EC: Yeah. It's much different today. You have to be solicited today.

[0:23:05] KM: What does that mean?

[0:23:06] EC: Well, because of the internet, mostly, but it was before that. Now with the internet, labels don't want to actually develop you as an artist. They want you to already have a fan base, already have an internet presence, already be selling. They just want to join in the party that you've already created. Hence, the need for studios like us. We do all of that.

[0:23:26] KM: That's what the word safe means that you keep talking about. A safe place. Brian, I'm fixing to get to you.

[0:23:34] BB: Oh, no problem.

[0:23:36] EC: And she will.

[0:23:37] KM: I will. You're next.

[0:23:38] EC: I sat in that seat.

[0:23:40] KM: Yeah, you’re next. All right, let's go ahead and take a break right here. Although, I do want to ask you, how long do you have to practice piano to be good? Do you practice still all the time now?

[0:23:50] EC: I do. I practiced when I was young, four to six hours a day, but that's not normal. Your average.

[0:23:55] KM: Yeah, that's not normal.

[0:23:56] EC: Your average child probably plays an hour a day.

[0:23:58] KM: If you can get them to.

[0:23:59] EC: If you can get them to.

[0:24:01] KM: What's the trick to practicing?

[0:24:03] EC: Practicing well. You should practice like you perform. There shouldn't be a difference.

[0:24:08] KM: What about making a mistake when you practice?

[0:24:10] EC: So what?

[0:24:12] KM: Do you keep making the same mistake, or do you –

[0:24:14] EC: No.

[0:24:15] KM: How do you go, get through that mistake?

[0:24:17] EC: You recognize your mistake, you go back and you fix it, and then you practice it fixed. There's a problem. No matter what it is, sports, like a golf swing. If you learn the wrong golf swing and practice it for 24 hours a day, you will have mastered a wrong golf swing.

[0:24:33] KM: If you keep playing this piece and it gets to the same spot every time and you mess it up, don’t start all the way at the beginning again.

[0:24:38] EC: Right. Fix it.

[0:24:39] KM: Fix it right there. Really slow. Slow down. Fix it. Get the memory muscle. Is that what you're trying to do?

[0:24:44] EC: Muscle memory, exactly.

[0:24:46] KM: Muscle memory.

[0:24:46] EC: Yes. And brain memory.

[0:24:47] KM: Brain memory. Do it really slow, over and over to get through it. All right. Let's take another break. This is a great place. When we come back, we're going to continue our conversation with the well-trained musicians from Infrared Studio pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher, who's been talking to us. Next, we're going to find out about the drummer, Brian Brown. He's going to be in the hot seat next.

[BREAK]

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[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[0:25:45] KM: You're listening Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher, and drummer, Brian Brown, studio members of Infrared Studios in Mayflower, Arkansas. Way out there in the boonies. I don't know why they're out there, but they like Mayflower, Arkansas. It's right off the freeway, easy access, very centrally located in Arkansas. That way, everybody can come see them. All right, Brian. You're in the hot seat now.

[0:26:08] BB: All right.

[0:26:10] KM: You're a drummer. Why drums?

[0:26:12] BB: You know, that's a great question.

[0:26:13] KM: Well, thank you.

[0:26:15] BB: I think a lot of it had to do with just nervous energy at first. I remember sitting at the dinner table, driving my parents absolutely crazy.

[0:26:27] KM: That was so fast. I don’t know how you did that.

[0:26:32] BB: Just –

[0:26:33] KM: Okay. That's fast.

[0:26:36] BB: Yeah. Finally, around the time, I think I was in sixth grade, one of the local – you have to understand, Maine is, if I was anywhere Yankee, I'd be Canadian. But it's way up there in the little town that I grew up in, about 5,000 people. But it was called the City of Belfast, because it was a county seat. Local Bangor, Maine, which was 47 miles away, had a land lease type program for all the school districts in about a 100-mile radius. My dad rented a snare drum for me, which was one of the big old wooden-hooped Gretsch snare drums. 14.

[0:27:25] KM: Isn't that what they carry when they march?

[0:27:27] BB: Yeah. Yeah. This is back in the 50s, early, yeah, 50s and the newer drums that you'll see today all have braces on, so they're kept at a very level angle and there's no problem hitting them. Back then, it was a strap that went around your shoulder.

[0:27:44] KM: Yeah. Little Drummer Boy.

[0:27:47] BB: Yeah. It would move with your hip as you march.

[0:27:51] KM: Oh, cool.

[0:27:52] BB: Yeah. I have several Charlie horses and bruises to prove after that. It progressed from there. My dad was a jazz fanatic.

[0:28:08] KM: What did they have to do with the county seat and all of that?

[0:28:13] BB: Oh, just –

[0:28:14] KM: Just where you came from.

[0:28:15] BB: Yeah. It was the town of 5,000.

[0:28:18] KM: I just thought maybe, it was so big and open, you could have a drums and nobody could hear you, because there's so much open air.

[0:28:24] BB: Well, that too.

[0:28:25] KM: It’s like, you live in this really big open air, so let's just give him drums and he can just go crazy.

[0:28:31] BB: No, the fact that my dad was such a big jazz man.

[0:28:34] KM: Did he play?

[0:28:35] BB: No, he was a veterinarian. Allergic to animals, believe it or not.

[0:28:41] KM: That is the oddest thing, I think, I've ever heard on the show.

[0:28:47] BB: Oh, yeah. He found out in his sixth year at Cornell that he was starting to react to HF and hair dander off of animals.

[0:28:56] KM: Oh, he developed it.

[0:28:57] BB: Well, yeah. He went to a couple of specialists and they told him, they said, “Well, you could graduate and go into practice, but you'll be out in two years.” Well, he was in practice for 27 years.

[0:29:11] KM: What did he do? Just take a lot of Benadryl?

[0:29:13] BB: Yeah. Unfortunately, he had to take literally, handfuls of a Fedrin and Benadryl, and all these real –

[0:29:21] KM: Oh, that'll make you clean the house.

[0:29:23] BB: Yeah. Cancer finally took him out at 50. He was real young. Anyway, he pushed me along the course of playing music. As a result, I got exposed to some of the real heavyweights of the music business. At the age of 14 or 15, playing with people like Louis Armstrong and Howard McGee, and some of these upper echelon of players.

[0:29:54] KM: Did you actually play with them, or play along with their records in your house?

[0:29:59] BB: No, I played with them.

[0:30:00] EC: Played with them.

[0:30:01] KM: At 14?

[0:30:02] BB: Yeah. Louis Armstrong was an interesting story. In Southern Maine, it used to be this big opera house set up at a place called Old Orchard Beach. Was on the end of this huge pier that was out in the Atlantic Ocean. They would bring in, especially during the summertime, which is a big tourist time for Maine. God knows what they're going to do this year, but they would bring in big bands, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, all these huge bands. We had gotten to know one of the promoters. He was bringing in Louis Armstrong and was a personal friend of Louis's, and introduced me and Louis. God bless him, called me up in the middle of the concert to play.

[0:30:54] KM: No way.

[0:30:55] BB: Yeah. I mean, being that age of 14, I really didn't understand what was happening. My dad was out in the audience having a heart attack. It was only years later, if you want to know what Louis – if you're not familiar with Louis Armstrong and what he brought to the table, I suggest watching the Ken Burns series on jazz. Because for a non-jazzerer, if you will, that's a perfect primer of the whole history of jazz. Louis was the heads and shoulders above, just about everybody else, as far as what he brought, the innovations.

[0:31:36] KM: You remember what song you played along with?

[0:31:38] BB: CJM. Blues.

[0:31:39] EC: Amazing.

[0:31:40] BB: It's an old jazz standard. Yeah, he was –

[0:31:42] KM: You must have been pretty good for all these guys.

[0:31:44] BB: He was a sweet man.

[0:31:45] KM: You played with Louis Armstrong. For people who don't know, he's a trumpeter. Wouldn't that what you would call him? Howard McGhee. I looked him up, because you said you played with him. He's a trumpeter.

[0:31:53] BB: Trumpeter, yeah.

[0:31:54] KM: Charlie Mariano?

[0:31:55] BB: Yeah, he played clarinet. And sax.

[0:31:58] KM: Saxophonist. Benny Golson, another saxophonist. You’ve got all this repertoire with all these horn players. When I watched their songs that they played, because I was looking for you, because I just met you today and I was wondering what you look like. I was looking for pictures for you, and I was looking through all – and I was watching their songs on YouTube, and it looked like, all these drummers were playing with brushes. Is that what you play with?

[0:32:24] BB: Yeah. It’s –

[0:32:25] EC: Sometimes.

[0:32:26] BB: Sometimes. Especially, this gig that I've been with Ted Ludwig at the Capitol Hotel now, 12 years, most of that is brushes, simply due to the fact of the acoustics in the hotel, and just volume level. Yeah, brushes, it’s a whole other – they make me cry every day. Because as opposed to a stick, which you're basically managing physical bounce, a brush, you create each stroke. There's no bounce.

[0:33:03] KM: Carpal tunnel.

[0:33:04] BB: Oh, well. I have nightmares –

[0:33:06] EC: Yes, ma’am.

[0:33:07] BB: I have nightmares about it. But luckily, knock on wood, I haven't developed that.

[0:33:14] KM: Playing brushes looks easier, but it's actually harder, because you don't get the bounce.

[0:33:19] BB: Oh, it's a whole other thing. Because if you look at the drum, okay, there are different colors on that drum, going out from the rim to the center of the drum. There's just different colors to it.

[0:33:36] KM: When you say colors, you don't mean literal colors, you mean sound colors.

[0:33:38] BB: Sound.

[0:33:38] KM: You taught us about that last week. The colors of sound.

[0:33:41] BB: Yes.

[0:33:41] KM: I learned.

[0:33:44] BB: But in brushes, they're just another color, basically. There's all sorts of variations to the colors you can play, as opposed to a stick.

[0:33:56] KM: You played with Lightnin’ Hopkins.

[0:33:59] BB: Yeah. For a week in Boulder, Colorado. And at a club there called Tulagi, which was this big college hangout. They brought in all the national acts of the day, if you will.

[0:34:14] KM: Rolling Stones Magazine ranked him as on number 71 on the 100 greatest guitarists of all times.

[0:34:21] BB: He was interesting to work with, because if you listen to a modern blues piece, it's a one, four, five, and it's at eight bars, you're going to the four, and then at another eight bars, you go to the five. Well, his chord progressions would happen at bar 13 and a half, or whatever. I mean, you had to really listen. He taught me a lot about listening to how, where the music was going. Just a sweet man. Sweet, sweet guy. He and his wife traveled together. On break, we'd do a set. Take a little break. And say, “My man, give me my medicine.” She carried a pint of old overhaul whiskey. That was his –

[0:35:13] KM: Medicine.

[0:35:14] BB: Medicine.

[0:35:14] EC: That was his medicine.

[0:35:16] BB: Yeah, it was a fun week. I took me a month to recover from that, because I was trying to stay up with him.

[0:35:25] KM: He was probably 20 years older than you.

[0:35:27] BB: Oh, at least. I was 23, 24. The guy had to be in his 60s.

[0:35:35] KM: The life of a traveling musician is so tough.

[0:35:41] BB: It is. That's a young man's game, as far as I'm concerned.

[0:35:44] KM: But there's so many people still doing it that are old.

[0:35:46] BB: Yeah, but they're staying at four-star hotels, not sleeping in the back of a pick-up truck.

[0:35:50] KM: Oh, there you go. There you go. It's still hard though. Even still, that still hard. You played in this band, The Fusion Band. I was like, what is a fusion band? I went and looked at weather report.

[0:36:01] BB: Yes.

[0:36:03] KM: They opened for Ramsey Lewis, and they had a hit called Birdland, which became a jazz standard, which I went and listened to. I was like, I know that song. Were you playing with them at the time that that was a hit?

[0:36:13] BB: No, no, no. This was a band called Fly and the Zippers.

[0:36:20] KM: They were stoned when they made that name.

[0:36:23] BB: Oh, Fly was this great saxophone player, bass clarinet then.

[0:36:28] KM: Oh, okay.

[0:36:28] BB: You have to close your eyes and picture this. He had, instead of a full beard, he had a cone of hair growing out from his right jaw line, that was about foot long, okay. 18 inches long at its peak. It would flutter when he played, because he was –

[0:36:52] KM: Because he was a – he played the horned.

[0:36:54] BB: Yeah, he played bass clarinet, tenor and alto flute.

[0:36:59] KM: He kept everything shaved, but right there?

[0:37:01] BB: But this one little cone of hair.

[0:37:04] KM: On the right side.

[0:37:05] BB: On the right side. It came out like this. Women loved it for some reason.

[0:37:09] KM: I don't get that. Okay.

[0:37:11] BB: Anyway, he would perform with a snoopy flight helmet on with goggles, and a throat mic. He would sing the octaves of whatever note he was playing. I mean, it was bizarre.

[0:37:27] KM: He's multi-talented though.

[0:37:28] BB: Yeah. Anyway, it was a –

[0:37:30] KM: He would play a clarinet, you said. Is that right? Did you say clarinet?

[0:37:34] BB: Bass clarinet.

[0:37:36] KM: And sing with a throat mic on his –

[0:37:38] BB: Yeah.

[0:37:39] KM: How do you do that?

[0:37:40] EC: He's humming.

[0:37:41] KM: Hum it while you're playing.

[0:37:42] EC: Well, there is coming. You can engage your vocal cords, but the trick is to produce enough air to keep the read that he has to vibrate to make the sound in his horn and stay on pitch. It's an extraordinary weird thing.

[0:37:56] KM: Or good. I mean, talented.

[0:37:57] GM: It’s so weird. I love it.

[0:37:58] KM: I love it. Okay. What's his name? We got to look him up.

[0:38:01] BB: His name, his real name was Phil McClard.

[0:38:04] KM: But when we Google it – we want to go to YouTube and look him up, what's his name?

[0:38:08] BB: Fly McClard.

[0:38:10] KM: Fly McClard. Honey, Gray, put a link to that on there.

[0:38:13] GM: Oh, absolutely. Fly and the Zippers, right?

[0:38:15] KM: Yeah. Fly and the Zippers.

[0:38:17] BB: Fly and the Zippers, you might get something. But that was back in the 70s. I mean –

[0:38:22] KM: I got to go see this sideways beard.

[0:38:23] GM: I’m about to say that the internet is a strange place.

[0:38:24] KM: It's 18 inches long.

[0:38:27] EC: The cone of shame coming out of the cheek. Strange.

[0:38:31] KM: The women loved it. I don't think it was shame. It was a sexy cone.

[0:38:35] BB: Well, Boulder was home to some of the more original. I mean, I look at band names these days and the stuff coming out of Boulder. I was also in a band, this big 10-piece horn band that we played everything from Bob Wills to Duke Ellington. We were on, speaking on the road, we were on the road a lot. The amount of energy, Fly ended up in that band as well. We both went to that band, because it gave us an offer we couldn't refuse, which is really good money. We actually did a recording for Columbia and harkening back to what we were talking about before, they gave us 50 grand to do a record.

[0:39:17] KM: Whoa. That's big bucks.

[0:39:19] BB: Yeah. But that was kind of, if they were interested in you and they wanted to develop you, that's what they do.

[0:39:25] KM: Okay.

[0:39:25] BB: They'd take that back and consider it as a loan.

[0:39:28] EC: Yes, it was a loan.

[0:39:31] BB: Of course, we were buying cases of tequila and really great marijuana and putting it on a rental slip. Along with recording, I mean, just to be totally honest here, it was the 70s after all. Yeah, that had a –

[0:39:49] KM: I forgot where we were going. I don't even know where I am in the show. I'm going to take a break and we're going to come back. We've got five minutes. I want to come back. I love talking to Brian Brown. He's got stories. Okay, you may have to come back next week. Every week, I get another guy to come back, because I just can't quit talking to them. All right, let's take a quick break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with these two interesting musicians, telling their stories from Infrared Studio, pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher and drummer, Brian Brown. We’ll be right back.

[BREAK]

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[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[0:41:06] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with pianist, Mr. Eric Chesher and drummer, Brian Brown, studio members from Infrared Studios in Mayflower, Arkansas. If you're just tuning in and you missed what we've been talking about, what we've been laying down, I'm sorry, because you need to go back and listen to this podcast. The podcast is always available. Brian, how did you end up moving in 1983 to Little Rock, Arkansas?

[0:41:35] BB: I moved here to get out of the sandbox of Boulder. I'm a recovering alcoholic.

[0:41:41] KM: Oh. I don’t told you, I love them.

[0:41:43] BB: Yeah.

[0:41:45] KM: I love those guys.

[0:41:46] BB: Anyway, came down to help a friend of mine build a solar house and get out of that sandbox. He was also recovering. He had about five years in AA, and so forth. Was my quasi-sponsor. Did that and didn't touch a drumstick for, I don't know, seven months or so. I moved here in March of ’83. By September, I had a job with Art Porter after sitting in with his group one night. He offered me a gig. I've been playing ever since then. This is the longest, this COVID thing, man. This is the longest break I've had ever.

[0:42:33] KM: Ever.

[0:42:35] BB: Yeah. I mean, I practice every day. Luckily, we are recording.

[0:42:39] KM: Yeah. Let's talk about that. You all have been in the industry a long time. You've seen a lot of changes. Looking back, do you have any advice for any young musicians? The business is so different today.

[0:42:48] BB: Oh, it's totally different.

[0:42:50] KM: How do young musicians get started? Should they go get a degree? Did you get a degree, Brian?

[0:42:54] BB: No, I did not.

[0:42:56] KM: But you play with all these men who are trained musicians.

[0:43:01] BB: Luckily, you don't have to show any credentials, other than what you bring to the table, what you can play.

[0:43:06] KM: Is it worth getting a degree? Should you go to college?

[0:43:09] EC: I'm a fan of it, but it is not a necessity. No one cares if you have a piece of paper when you're playing for them. It's what you can do, and what they think you might be able to do. I think that a college degree opens doors on the different sides of the music business, not just the performing end, that possibly you wouldn't get if you didn't have it. I'm a huge fan of college.

[0:43:33] KM: I think you need to read music. Do you read music, Brian?

[0:43:35] BB: Yeah.

[0:43:36] EC: Got to read music.

[0:43:36] KM: Got to read music. You have to get some training. You've got to be able to – if you don't, yeah. What's Infrared Studio’s goal? What is their goal for the future?

[0:43:46] EC: Our goal is to keep helping as many people as we can develop their talent. That's what we do.

[0:43:51] KM: Is that what you want your legacy to be?

[0:43:54] EC: It seems to be the legacy. Of course, the great music from the great players that are there already, and really developing the new and young, or old talent that comes through our door. We give them 400% effort.

[0:44:08] KM: We're going to play. You brought some more music. We’ve run out of time. We're going to go ahead and put it on the podcast, so we'll play your next song. What is that music?

[0:44:17] EC: The next song was a movie score that I just finished. It's the battle scene. It's a movie that's coming out based on the Netflix show, The Last Kingdom. The score was accepted. I can announce that. I brought the battle scene. This is a full symphonic movie score. A big difference from the first song.

[0:44:35] KM: What's the name of it?

[0:44:36] EC: It's just called The Battle Scene.

[0:44:38] KM: What's the name of your Netflix show?

[0:44:40] EC: The Netflix show is called The Last Kingdom, and they're making a movie out of that show.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[0:45:48] KM: That's so cool. We know you. I want to take this opportunity to tell our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. Thank you, Brian.

[0:45:56] BB: Thank you.

[0:45:57] KM: Thank you, Eric.

[0:45:57] EC: Thanks for having us.

[0:45:58] KM: I loved being with you guys. We hope that our listeners have learned, or heard something today that's been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

[0:46:15] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio, and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, gray@flagandbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel, or podcasts wherever you like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.

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