Dave Mason Biography

10 May 1945, Worcester, England. Mason, the former guitarist of local bands the Jaguars, the Hellions and Deep Feeling met Steve Winwood when he was employed as a road manager for the Spencer Davis Group. This legendary 60s R&B band was weakened in 1967 when Winwood, together with Mason, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood formed Traffic. They found instant success as one of the leaders of progressive pop in the late 60s, and went on to develop into a highly regarded unit in the 70s. Mason joined and left the band on numerous occasions, even recording a one-off single (‘Just For You’) for Island Records in 1968. He subsequently settled in America in 1969 and enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist. His excellent debut album on Blue Thumb Records, Alone Together, proved to be his most critically acclaimed work, and featured strong musical support from Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge and former Traffic colleague Capaldi on well-crafted songs such as ‘You Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave’, ‘Only You Know And I Know’ and ‘World In Changes’. Mason’s melodic flair and fine guitar playing came to the fore on all eight tracks. The original record package was a triple-fold, cut-out, hole-punched cover that attempted to encourage the listener to hang it on the wall. Mason’s second venture without Traffic was a collaboration with ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot. The record suffered from Blue Thumb’s poor marketing and indifferent reviews and was shortly offloaded as a cut-out. His next album Headkeeper (1972) also suffered, but this time Mason disowned it and referred to it as a bootleg. The content was dubious and comprised poor live recordings and half-finished studio takes. In the court proceedings that followed Mason filed for bankruptcy and was able to be released from his recording contract.

By 1973, Mason had permanently settled in America, and he signed a long-term contract with Clive Davis at Columbia Records. The first record, It’s Like You Never Left, was a return to the format of the debut, although overall, reviews were mixed and erred on the side of average. The recruitment of a number of name LA musicians gave the album a full and varied sound. Graham Nash, Greg Reeves, Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Lonnie Turner and Stevie Wonder were just some of the artists who participated. Mason found limited success in his adopted country, and produced a series of reasonably successful records in the 70s. He built a considerable following in the USA by constant touring and had a stable touring unit. The regular line-up included Rick Jaeger (drums), Mike Finnigan (keyboards/vocals), Jim Krueger (d. 29 March 1993; guitar/vocals) and Bob Galub (bass), later replaced by Gerald Johnson from the Steve Miller Band. The CBS albums formed a steady pattern that contained mostly Mason originals, regularly sprinkled with versions of oldies. ‘All Along The Watchtower’, ‘Bring It On Home To Me’, ‘Crying, Waiting, Hoping’ were just three of the songs he sympathetically interpreted.

Following a surprise US hit single in 1977 with ‘We Just Disagree’ Mason’s albums predictably became dull and Old Crest On A New Wave was the nadir. Mason kept a relatively low profile during the 80s playing acoustic gigs with Krueger, making one poor album in 1987 and another forgettable release on MCA Records shortly afterwards. He was also heard on American television singing on Miller beer commercials. In 1993, after having lived on Mick Fleetwood’s estate in California for a while he joined the latest version of Fleetwood Mac. He contributed a number of songs to their badly received album Time.

Mason looked back over his career in a lengthy 1995 interview in Goldmine and philosophically accepted all the mistakes he had made with regard to bad business arrangements, drugs and alcohol. He at least survived with his sanity. An interesting CD appeared in 1999, featuring highlights from Mason and old partner Jim Capaldi’s 40, 000 Headmen tour. In addition to Traffic favourites, the album included credible re-workings of some of Mason’s solo catalogue and Capaldi’s recent songwriting success ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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