Three years ago, former Chicago bassist and vocalist Jason Scheff had a great time participating in the It Was 50 Years Ago Today Tour. “They were looking for a bass player with a little bit of a pedigree to join an all-star band,” he said. “They went out to do (The Beatles’) The White Album and I found out it was Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Micky Dolenz and Joey Molland of Badfinger and I said, ‘Absolutely. I’d love to do it!’ So I got involved in their world a few years ago and it’s such a blast.”
Dolenz is not participating in this year’s tour, but Denny Laine of Paul McCartney’s Wings and The Moody Blues is. The five will perform songs from The Beatles’ Revolver and Rubber Soul albums, as well as their own hits, at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, March 1 at 8 p.m.; Sound Waves at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, March 5 at 8 p.m.; and the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, March 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Scheff says that even though he is an experienced musician, he has those “pinch me” moments with this assembled cast, both onstage and off.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse and prepare for the White Album tour and there wasn’t really a lot of time other than to dive in and get to work, which was great, but once we were out on the road and playing shows, it was really fun to see these guys and see their fans just light up over them,” he says. “That definitely took me down ‘memory lane’ as to how I learned about these artists and covered them as I was coming up as a musician myself. And then to all of a sudden see that you’re ‘in the club’ … we did a cruise after White Album tour a few years ago, the ’70s Rock & Romance Cruise, which I’m actually going back out on with my band right before this Beatles tour. And the first time around, we had just done the White Album tour and all of a sudden, I’m doing my first of two shows on this cruise and I look up and there was Todd Rundgren and his family in the audience. He wanted to be at my show and that was a moment where I went, ‘Wow, that is so cool.’
“Christopher Cross and I ran into each other years ago when he and Chicago were on the same bill. Christopher wasn’t in the studio but I played bass on a track for one of his records that a friend of mine was producing. We ran into each other a little bit but we got to spend a lot of time together and put our voices together on this Beatles tour and it was just magical and a lot of fun.”
Scheff’s musical lineage extends back to yet another legend, Elvis Presley. His father Jerry was the bassist in Elvis’s TCB Band as well as the bassist on The Doors’ L.A. Woman album, their only album to use an actual bass guitar and not Ray Manzarek’s left hand on the keyboard.
Scheff replaced Peter Cetera in Chicago in 1985. “I don’t think any of us thought it was really going to work,” he says. “I think they were hoping but I walked into the studio on Day One thinking that maybe this is my one and only day there. But something happened and I felt comfortable walking to the microphone with (producer) David Foster on the other side of the glass. I always love to share that with kids who are so freaked out about when their opportunity comes. So much is in fate’s hands as to, you’re either going to feel comfortable or you’re not. I look back now and it’s amazing that it all worked. On paper it looks impossible but half of the ’80s are my years with that band, half of the biggest hits of Chicago’s career: ‘Will You Still Love Me?,’ ‘What Kind of Man Would I Be?,’ ‘Look Away,’ that’s all our stuff. So at the end of the day, when parents say to me, ‘How can I motivate my kid to practice?,’ I always say, ‘Nobody had to motivate me.’ In this day and age people are always trying to push so much on people and I say, ‘Relax, it’s either going to happen or it’s not, and accept it, because it’s okay.’ ”
Like many who make their living by being creative, Scheff has multiple irons in the proverbial fire both before and after the upcoming tour.
“I’ve got the cruise coming up and then I have a band with Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts called Generation Radio. We have an album that’s going to be released any second now and we’re going to be playing some dates ourselves throughout the rest of the year. … and I’m booking my own shows. I just got booked for a festival that’s just outside of Chicago on July 2 called Frontier Days with the Jason Scheff Band. So it’s really three projects. And I was also just asked by Mike Clink, who produced (Guns N’ Roses’) Appetite for Destruction … he is producing a Triumph tribute album. I haven’t sung it yet but I’ve played bass on my track and that’s going to be people like Mickey Thomas, Nancy Wilson and Joey Belladonna and Anthrax, Sebastian Bach. So there’s a lot of good stuff going on these days.”
Scheff said the upcoming shows will include most of the songs from Revolver and Rubber Soul. “The songs are pretty short on Revolver and Rubber Soul so we can fit a lot of them in there. It’s going to be a blast. I’ve been practicing the stuff lately and it is just such a great body of work.
“I think people that come are really going to enjoy this because we are not only playing the bulk of those two albums but we’re sprinkling our hits throughout the night. You’re going to hear Todd Rundgren singing some of his biggest hits. I’m singing some of Chicago’s biggest hits, Joey Molland doing Badfinger, Denny Laine the Moody Blues and Wings and Christopher Cross … I’ll tell you what, one of my favorite things in life is to be singing alongside of Christopher Cross. It’s a beautiful sound.”
For more about Scheff, visit jasonscheff.com.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.