Mumy on Redwood
Call me a sentimental fool going through a mid-life crisis and longing
for the good old days, but I was genuinely motivated to preserve and
share the legacy of Redwood.
The music that Paul Gordon, Gary David and I made together from 1969
through 1974 will always be special to me. I think what makes it
unique was for the most part there was an innocence and purity in our
songwriting back then that simply cannot be duplicated. Paul and I
were born a day apart. We were 15 when Redwood was formed and we were
five weeks shy of 21 when it ended. Gary was (and is) ahead of us in
the age department by nine months.
All three of us had been writing songs and performing in other teenage
bands before we formed Redwood back in 1969, but we each experienced a
very prolific writing period during the first three years of the
group. After that, once we had become affected by professional show
business, we wrote differently. We then wrote with "hooks" in mind and
we began consciously crafting songs that we hoped would get us a major
record deal, where in the early years of Redwood we simply wrote what
we were honestly inspired to write with no thoughts of, "this song
needs a bridge", "this lyric is too weird" or "this is too short a
section", etc. In the beginning it was truly art for arts sake.
There was a unique blend when the three of us sang in harmony together
and I’ve missed that sound in the many years since the band broke up.
Redwood was truly a "working band”. We performed live for audiences
more than a hundred times in 1971 alone.
Looking back on the group, it was a very eclectic trio. Originally,
Paul came from a rock‘n roll background and he was heavily influenced
as a kid by the great melodic hits written by Brian Wilson for the
Beach Boys. Gary was a classically trained violinist. My musical roots
were in folk music. I was especially influenced by the Kingston Trio.
One can definitely hear the influence of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
in Redwood material as well as bits that were inspired by James
Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, John Sebastion and even the country
styling of Poco and the "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" era Byrds. Everyone
from the Kingston Trio to George Gershwin influenced Redwood. By
fusing it all together, I believe that we managed to create a unique
sound all our own… a sound we called "Tree Music".
After more than five years of performing, recording and trying to
break into the big time, it was Gary who decided to call it quits. He
informed Paul and me that he was leaving the group on Christmas day of
1974. The three of us went on to pursue our various projects and
Redwood faded into memory.
It took a request from longtime friend and artist Tanya Wolf to get us
to reunite a quarter of a century later. Tanya was hosting a party to
celebrate her birthday and said that to have Redwood perform for her
on that night would be her greatest wish. I was into it, Gary said
“yes”, and the sometimes-recalcitrant Paul was also agreeable. It fell
together really easily and quickly. We played in Tanya’s studio for
her and a group of friends in January of 2000. That night we performed
together for the first time in 25 years. The songs we sang were;
"We’ve Been Friends", "Denver Thing", "Just Like Old Man River", "Who
Believes He Can Fly", "Clearly Much Older" and "Rainy Road". We
enjoyed it and so did those in attendance. Afterwards we agreed to get
together and play some more with no goals in mind. We started meeting
at Paul’s house to casually jam every few months. No recording, just
the three of us remembering the old tunes, playing and harmonizing
together, making tree music.
I was inspired to re-explore the
Redwood songs. I went to my storage space and dug out all the ancient
tapes and reel-to-reel recorders, hooked ‘em up in my studio and
listened to old Redwood live gigs, home rehearsals and studio
recordings. Most the tapes had serious technical problems. I managed
to make safety digital dubs of quite a few of them, but some were so
brittle they just fell apart before I could even dub them. The sound
quality of the old tapes ranged from barely okay to simply awful. Even
the large body of work that we recorded in professional recording
studios like the Record Plant suffered sonically from decades of
antiquity. For the most part, the old tapes were fun for me to listen
to and become reacquainted with the songs, but they weren’t sonically
worth sharing with others. It was then that I became ambitious.
I believed that Redwood deserved preservation and I suggested we
re-record our songs. In the "old days" we used to anxiously wait to go
into the recording studio. We would often get "down time" in between
other artists sessions. That meant we’d head into a studio around
midnight and work until sometime around noon the next day.
Fortunately, nowadays Paul and I both have home recording studios and
we can record whenever we choose to. I love to play music; it’s truly
my number one favorite thing to do. I also happen to have an extensive
collection of musical instruments, so for me to lay down Redwood
tracks using my many acoustic guitars, basses, banjos, harmonicas,
percussion instruments, etc, was fun. We also cut tracks at Paul’s
home digital studio.
The roots run deep and I’m pleased to say that Tree Music has indeed