Road life resumes for veteran rock’n’roll guitarist
Guitarist Danny Kortchmar says he traveled “everywhere” when he played in James Taylor’s band decades ago, and he’s also toured with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and David Crosby and Graham Nash. He quit touring regularly in the 1980s to become a record producer, but now the 75-year-old rock’n’roll veteran is back on the road with his longtime friends Waddy Wachtel, Lee Sklar and Russ. Kunkel in their group, the immediate family.
Kortchmar heads to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., On Wednesday for the opening night of a 12-date family tour of six states. The group, which released their self-titled debut album in late August and also includes guitarist Steve Postell, has scheduled shows in three cities in California and in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida.
The trip brings back memories for Kortchmar, a sessional west coast musician who early on made a name for himself playing on two landmark albums, Taylor’s. Sweet baby James and that of Carole King Tapestry. One destination he will never forget is Paris, his favorite city abroad.
“The whole place is a museum,” says Kortchmar. “Going through it is like going through a huge museum. It is an incredibly beautiful city. I also think Rome is a fantastic city that I love very much.
Every time a traveler leaves home and visits another country, there is an intellectual stimulation, he says.
“It energizes you because you are not in your comfort zone,” Kortchmar explains. “You have to be careful of what is going on around you. It’s all new, it’s all different.
In the United States, Kortchmar’s favorite travel destinations are the places he lived: the East Coast, New York, and Los Angeles. He was born in New York City and lived in Manhattan until the age of 4 or 5, when his family moved to suburban Westchester County.
“I grew up in Larchmont, New York, a lovely little town,” he says. “It was very peaceful and quiet, and I liked it when I was a kid, because you could walk everywhere.”
Larchmont is an affluent village beside the Long Island Sound about 20 miles northeast of Manhattan. Its residents have included Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and actor, screenwriter and producer Douglas Fairbanks. Arthur Hailey’s 1990 novel Evening news spoke of a television presenter and his wife who lived “an opulent life of Ken and Barbie in Larchmont”, according to the New York Times, “Until evil Shining Path terrorists come up north to stage a kidnapping.”
Such fictitious excitement did not come from Kortchmar to Larchmont.
“As I got older, when I became a preteen and teenager, I realized it was unbelievably boring,” Kortchmar says, “and I used to call it ‘the velvet rut.’
Thus, the village, he says, inspired him “to get out of the suburbs and enter the world of rock and roll and concerts.” Today Larchmont hasn’t changed much, he says.
“I’ve been back there several times because my daughter was at college in Lower Westchester County,” Kortchmar says. “Larchmont is still beautiful and beautiful, charming and sweet.
Nearby Connecticut, where Kortchmar and his immediate family will be playing two concerts this month, is another place he looks fondly on. He lived in Westport and Wilton in the south of the state and in Granby in the north.
“I left California when my daughter was 2 and wanted to raise her on the East Coast,” he says. “We returned to Connecticut for several years.
Another favorite destination is Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
“My family used to go there every summer when I was growing up, so I’ll always think fondly of Martha’s Vineyard,” he says. “It has changed so drastically, however. Now it’s like the Hamptons, packed every summer.
Kortchmar says few or no millionaires lived there when he was young, and the rich did not brag about their fortunes then.
“Today there are a lot of billionaires going there,” he says. “When I went there with my family, there was a swimming pool all over the island. Now if you fly over Martha’s Vineyard you will see about 300 of them. It’s a very different place today, but going there every summer was an absolutely wonderful experience.
With decades of touring under his belt and increasingly gray hair, are there any new strategies that Kortchmar is using to make traveling less exhausting?
“It’s a really tough question, because the last tour I did was 11 years ago – the Troubadour Reunion tour with James Taylor and Carole King,” Kortchmar replies. “We played in arenas, and that was a big deal, so the travel and accommodation was top notch all the time. It made it really easy.
“What we’re about to do now with immediate family isn’t that luxurious,” he says. “But I am prepared to pay more money personally for the flight and the hotels. As a group, our tours are booked without a ton of dates in a row. We make, maybe, three appointments, then a day off, then maybe three more. We don’t work five, six or seven days in a row like a lot of groups do. It’s a way of not exhausting yourself.