If you have ever listened to the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, George Harrison or Joe Walsh, you have heard Dave Mason, too.
He founded the band Traffic, but can also be heard on the Stones album Beggars Banquet, and Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland.
“I was fortunate enough to spend some great time with him,” Mason says of Hendrix, who had been a dear friend. “I sang on ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ and I played the acoustic guitar on his version of ‘All Along the Watchtower.’”
Mason used Michael Jackson as his backup singer on a song, “Save Me."
Mason will hit the Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach on The San Francisco Fest Tour with Journey and the Doobie Brothers on June 11.
Growing up in Worchester, England, the young Mason and fellow musician Jim Capaldi formed several bands together, including The Jaguars and The Hellions, before joining forces with Chris Wood and Steve Winwood to create the legendary group Traffic in 1967. Traffic’s soulful, blues-inspired influence resulted in psychedelic hits like, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.”
Despite weaving in and out of Traffic repeatedly since 1967, Mason was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 as a founding member.
Between gigs with some of the world’s most well-known musicians, Mason forged a successful solo career with radio favorites like, “We Just Disagree,” “Let it Go, Let it Flow,” and his hit with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: “Only You Know and I Know.”
And Joe Cocker’s wildly successful “Feelin’ Alright?” Yep, Mason wrote it.
While it is difficult to remember one particular instance that stands out in a lifetime of star-studded collaborations, Mason recalls being thrilled when he received a gift from one of his earliest idols.
“Duane Eddy sent me his autograph,” he says, laughing. “The first thing I ever learned to play was his version of 'Peter Gunn.'”
While Mason’s work with rock superstars is well-known to music buffs, few are aware of his early performance with The Who.
Well, not actually with The Who.
“One of the craziest things I did when I was 17 was with Jim Capaldi, who was also in Traffic," Mason remembers. "We went to see The Who, but they didn’t turn up. All of the equipment was there and their roadies were there, but there was no band. The place was packed — it was sold out. Jim and I got up and actually got on the microphone and said, ‘Does anybody play bass guitar out there in the audience?’ Some guy jumped up so we just sort of fumbled through some stuff for 45 minutes and then proceeded to trash the equipment, à la The Who.”
While it is unlikely that fans can expect similar shenanigans on Mason’s current tour, his set will include both Traffic classics and solo tunes.
“I’ve gotta pull out the stops and just throw it out there,” he says. “It’ll sort of rekindle some people who are like, ‘Oh Dave Mason, of course! That’s the guy that did that song! Yeah, OK, now I get it!’”
Mason says he relishes the rare opportunity to relax in his rural Nevada home when he is not touring — which is basically never.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 18. I’ve never not been on the road,” he says. “[My life] is about live performing whether it’s in front of 300 people or 30,000 people. It’s just about playing live.”
At 70, Mason’s future outlook is borne from the perspective of a man who has lived to tell the tales about a spectacular life that was taken from many of his friends, like Capaldi, Jackson, and Hendrix, way too soon.
“It’s just life,” he says with a deep sigh. “You get to the point where it’s like, 'If only I knew then what I know now...' Too bad youth is wasted on the young.”
Journey, Doobie Brothers, and Dave Mason will play the Perfect Vodka Amphitheater on June 11 at 7:00 p.m. Ticket range: $25.00-$139.95 plus fees and taxes. VIP packages available. Call Ticketmaster Express at 866-448-7849 or visit Livenation.com
Wendy Rhodes is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @WendyRhodesFL.