Steve Winwood responds to the letter that Dave Mason posted on his Website

Steve Winwood responds to the letter that Dave Mason posted on his Website

On March 23. 2004, 16:00


Dave Mason wrote:

I think its time i cleared up the reason i did not play with TRAFFIC, its hard to do without sounding bitter,or self agrandizing,when in truth, its sad! About a month before the induction i had been told by Steves management, and Jim /Steve that they were going to do DMF, and if i wanted to be part of it i would have to play bass guitar, facts are this, i've played bass, on two recordings in my whole life, DMF and Dealer, i also played the harmonica on DMF. I have not owned, or played either instrument in 39 years,i've played pretty good guitar in the last 39yrs, so rather than embarress myself, and the band, my suggestion was to have Will Lee play the bass and that we do it in the spirit of how we started, rather than the notes, and that steve and i might trade solos, and have fun with it, i was told quote, "THAT'S NOT AN OPTION", i offered to play rhythm guitar, same response,

i also thought it would have been fun to do 'Feelin' Alrght", in the groove it was written in, i was told by Jims manager, John Taylor, "that will never happen".
It seems that we've all become side men for Steve Winwood, which he seems to reinforce in all his interviews, it doesn't matter that i was an integral part of the first album, both writing and performing, or wrote and sang the groups first No 2 sigle, "Hole in my Shoe", it doesn't matter that i wrote, and sang, half the songs on the 2nd album, none of this seems to matter!

Ron Delsner, a man who has promoted concerts for many, many years, informed me that he was looking forwad to booking the up comming TRAFFIC reunion tour, "what reunion tour" was my reply, "you mean you are not part of it" said Ron, "nobody has asked me" Rons enthusiasm for booking any shows, audibly dwindled away over the phone.

I have harbored the hope, that this band could come together for many years, and truly hoped that the induction would reinforce this notion, i've let it go.

I have a new guitar company that i am co founder of, along with my partner Ravi Sahwney, RKS guitars is something i am truly proud of, and excited about, also Ravis brother Ramesh who is a doctor, has made me part of a new Alternate Health Care, and Surgery Center based in West Orange N.J. so you see my life is full, and i like it that way

It's too bad Steve can't make the differences work for us, rather than against us, after all, none of our individual musical careers are exactly setting the world on fire!




I had thought after our brief but amicable chat at the R&R HOF, and our "smiley hug," as captured immortally on camera, that Dave and I had finally put our differences behind us. Imagine my dismay when I read the message that was posted on his website. At least I suppose we are at last letting our feelings be known, which must be better than holding them in, mustn't it? Anyway here I go with a couple of my own thoughts:

Dave is quite correct in saying he played bass and harmonica on Dear Mr. Fantasy and although he has, as he quite rightly says, played pretty good guitar (in fact very good, Dave) over the last 39 years, unfortunately the award we have been given at the R&R HOF was definitely not about what we or any of our careers are now, but about TRAFFIC. What's more, because of the Traffic members that were inducted, it was quite clearly about TRAFFIC as they were in 1967 (Dave left Traffic in early 1968) and I emphasise not about any individual (Dave, Jim or me) or our careers in any of the subsequent 3 decades. When Traffic first came to the U.S. in spring '68, it was as a trio (i.e. without Dave), and we, of course, played DMF not a lot different--in fact, quite similar to the way it was played at the R&R HOF. Over the past few months, the door has been continuously open for Dave to play on the song--we were even prepared for Dave if he had wanted to get up and play at the very minute it was televised. There was no rhythm guitar on DMF, nor was it ever a guitar duel. It was, and I believe Dave Matthews would agree judging by his eloquent induction speech, a beautiful song (written by Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and myself) that touched the hearts and minds of many people, and we wanted to present it as such. I believe we achieved something very near to that at the R&R HOF, just as we did back in 1968 and I'm sure we would also have achieved it had Dave played bass with us - it was his call.

I don't know why John Taylor (J.C.'s manager) believed that Feelin' Alright played in the groove it was written in would "never happen." When I found out that Feelin' Alright was going to be played (the day before the show), I was quite happy to play piano (I had played piano and bass on the original recording), and assumed since I only really knew the original version, that that's what it would be. It was only during a conversation with Paul Shaffer, who was Musical Director on the day of the show, that he said, "It starts with that piano riff you know." "Oh no," says I. "It starts with Dave singing." Paul then informed me that Dave does the song as the (Joe) Cocker version, so I said "I'm not sure I know it but I'll do my best."

Neither do I know in what interviews Dave thinks I've been reinforcing the fact that he or anyone else is my "sideman." Let's be clear about this, there's a singer and then the musicians accompanying that singer are generally called "sidemen." I have been an accompanist on many songs both live and recorded and am very proud of it--in fact, I was a sideman on four songs at the R&R HOF.

Dave is a great songwriter and a great guitar player and has made great music over the last few decades, and the fact that he never quite fit in with Traffic should not get in the way of that, but let's remember also that many of the known and loved Traffic songs did not have Dave Mason on them:

Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
40,000 Headmen
Stranger to Himself
Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
Empty Pages
John Barleycorn
Rock & Roll Stew
Medicated Goo
- the list goes on

So when Dave claims that New York Promoter Ron Delsner's face dropped when Dave told him he knew nothing of the upcoming Traffic tour (I must admit that aside from a few rumblings and suggestions I know nothing either), does Mr. Delsner realise that not only did Dave not come to the U.S. with Traffic in the first place, but that he has never toured the U.S. with Traffic anyway?

So there are some facts which I hope clarify my perspective a little more. I don't bear a grudge or hold any ill feelings for Dave, I really wish him all the best with his new found careers, though I'm not quite sure how we could "Light up the Sky," as he doesn't seem to hold much hope for what either of us are doing in music. Nevertheless I also thought that things might have worked out better after the Traffic R&R HOF inclusion, and I am always open to patching up differences but what he's saying about me still sounds rather bitter but hey ..... Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?

--Steve Winwood