Click here to read about Steve Mann and Janis Joplin
WHO IS STEVE MANN?
Steve Mann, a wonderful guitarist and singer who performed live, recorded albums, and played on many studio sessions on the West Coast in the 1960's, is now living in Berkeley, California. His career has included not only playing solo, but also accompanying many other musicians, particularly vocalists (among them, Ruth Anne Friedman, Gail Garnett, and Hoyt Axton). He is known for his inventive guitar arrangements that complement and add exciting new dimensions to any song.
Steve had a mental breakdown around 1967, and though three of his personal friends made recordings of him around that time, these recordings were issued in small batches and thus have become collectors' items over the years. Those who have heard Steve either live or on record are eager to hear more, even thirty years after he retired from performing. Now that he has resurfaced, many fans have written him by e-mail to ask where they can hear him play, or where they can buy copies of his music releases. At last the news is good.
Lately, since Steve's friend Will Scarlett arranged to have him brought up to Berkeley, California in October of 2003, Steve has been a major musical fixture at the French Hotel Cafe, where his local friends come with their guitars to play with him, learn from him, buy him coffee, and generally enjoy his company.
He played with Jake Fussel in the Mendocino Blues Festival put on by Rick Blaufeld, and occasionally plays with Will at the Starry Plow in Berkeley. He also teaches guitar, and is gradually being contacted by guitarists who have heard him in the past. Paul Geremia has invited Steve to join him on stage for a few tunes at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, June 8, 2005. Frank Fotusky, an ardent fan, will be flying out from the East coast especially to meet and play music with Steve. They are planning a gig for July 16 at Epic Arts in Berkeley, with Will Scarlett joining them as a special guest. Contact www.epicarts.com for tickets.
Steve Mann was invited to contribute a track to Near Mint Record's 2005 CD, "Imaginational Anthem." We sent them a never-before-released instrumental, "My Thoughts Began to Crystallize," recorded here at Bella Roma Music.
Bella Roma has taken a special interest in Steve's return to the world of music. When he is at the French Hotel in north Berkeley, he can walk up to our place, play chess on the computer, get coffee, nap on the sofa, read his email, and stay for lunch if he wants. We found he had some pages on Stefan Wirz' huge musical website in Germany, http://www.wirz.de/music/mann_frm.htm
Steve began to talk about the songs he had written with other people, tracks he had recorded as a studio musician, and the many artists and projects he had been involved with in the past. Although it is probably too late to correct any of the lost royalty links at this point, we felt we should at least set him up in a better position for the future.
We helped him copyright his own material, sign up with us as his publisher, and join ASCAP, where his songs are being entered in their catalogue. He has an old friend, Bill Bernds, up here acting as his power of attorney, and has a California ID card and a Berkeley Public Library card as well. He has a nice leather wallet to put his cards in, which he sometimes leaves around places, but we always find it. He loves writing new material, especially putting music to furnished lyrics, which we have plenty of around Bella Roma. And not the least in importance, he has prepaid coffee at the French Hotel, courtesy of his publishing company.
STEVE'S NEW CD
As we began to get his material, records, and arrangements of folksongs copyrighted. We decided to make a CD of him using material that many of his friends were beginning to send him once they found his email address on the Wirz website. Word of his return got around and old tapes came out of closets to send to Steve.
Details of the contributions of material for his newest CD, "Steve Mann: Alive and Pickin'," can be found in the CD liner notes. As a bonus, we decided to also include "Hasta Luego," a brand new composition of Steve's, never before heard outside of Berkeley.
European fans have requested written-out lyrics for the songs. Others wanted stories behind the songs and possibly explanations for American slang terms. We have added a few remarks and explanations of blues terminology. Then of course everyone who heard the test masters wanted to hear about how Steve met and played with Janis Joplin. There simply wasn't enough room to put all that in the booklet, so the web site was planned. We are starting with lyrics and stories for Steve's own compositions, some photos of him today, samples of the music on his CD, a place to buy the CD, and a page for friends to write in letters or comments about him. Gradually material will be added as the site expands.
STEVE MANN TODAY
At present, Steve Mann does best when he is in the company of friends. He plays guitar with locals such as Alan Smithline, Will Scarlett on harmonica, Don Burnham, Marc Silber, Dale Miller, Don Villa, Rick Blaufeld and John Brandeberg who drove down to play with Steve after the 2004 Mendocino Blues Festival, and many others including our own Janet Smith of Bella Roma Music. He gets emails from acquaintances, friends and fans from Canada, France, Germany, Hawaii, and Australia. He has made friends with Andrea Fregola, an Italian journalist in the San Francisco East Bay who has taken an interest in Steve's career. He has many famous and non-famous friends, and remembers them all, how to spell their names, what they did together, and when. This includes, by the way, San Francisco personality and activist Margot St. James, who comes to visit him sometimes and loves to hear him play the guitar. Steve says Margo introduced him to Mose Allison back in the '60's, when he lived at her place in the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco.
In his second interest as a chess player, Steve is no slouch. His main enemy is time, since he tends to ponder over every move, and the clock sometimes runs out on him. This week he will be playing in a chess tournament at the East Bay Chess Club, after an opponent he met last night paid his $30.00 entrance fee so they could lock horns over the board today.
Truly, we Berkeley villagers are fortunate to be a part of Steve Mann's return to society, in a careful, caring way, and to the music scene in particular. Although he needs assistance in practical things like handling money and keeping his shoes tied, he is a gentle and amusing fellow, a constant coffee drinker, (an incurable smoker, alas), always the chivalrous gentleman, and Berkeley's very own musical weapon, the amazing legendary blues guitarist Steve Mann!
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