Fueled by Sadowsky’s artist list , I set out to create my own, knowing how important artists are to the success of the brand. I began my favorite part of the business plan – get artists using Lakland everywhere: concerts, TV, magazine ad’s, articles!
I was a little nervous at first, but once the conversation started discussing equipment – I found I could hold my own with the best of them.
The hunt for artists got easier as the band name grew. I remember reading an article with Paul McCartney where he states that he still loves getting free guitars/basses. I think it is a right of passage. I found this to be true. No matter how much money they have artists love a free bass!
Some artists called directly, some referrals, some through the techs. Techs are the guys you see at concerts handing guitars or basses to the band. They love a well-built guitar or bass because this makes there job easier. I played host to the wonderful city of Chicago, taking artists out to nice lunches and just hanging out. I loved it.
The following are some brief remembrances of my artist meetings from 1994-2010.
In 1998 I ran a full-page ad with 24 artists from all types of Music! Being located in Chicago only 10 minutes from downtown made my artists relations job quite easy. The typical visit would be:
11:00 – pick up artist at hotel and head to factory
12:00 – Lunch
1:00 back to factory
2:00 back to hotel.
4:00 Meet again at sound check
hang out till show time!
I loved it. Hanging with these guys was a blast. Becoming true friends.
I knew right off we we were to have a change we needed artists and lots of them! About 2 years in I ran 2 ad’s designed to show off my artists . It was a lot of work getting these photos, But I did it!
In the spring of 1995 I met a local music producer – Jim Tullio. He promised to hook me up with one of my favorite bassists – The Band’s Rick Danko! We created a bass for him. He was coming to town to open for the Dead at Soldier Field in August of 1995. At the hotel the night before this gig we (Hugh and I) gave him the bass. He thought it was beautiful. I said, “You used fretless before anyone else.” He smiled and said, “That’s what they tell me!”
The night of the show Rick could not have been any nicer!
We also met Levon Helm who was the consummate host. He had us and the rest of the backstage folk follow them up to the stage. It was a big gig for them. I felt bad as the stadium was only about ¼ full. Hugh and I watched nervously as Rick went for the controls, not knowing what any of them did. In the end it turned out to be such a thrill to be on that stage (so to speak) with Rick and the Band!!
Arguably the best bass player on the planet. At that first Namm show I met David Inamine. A soft-spoken Hawaiian. He told Pino about our bass. In June of 1995 I got a phone call. A British voice on the line said, “Hello, this is Pino!” He was in town for a Jeff Beck gig. He invited me. Having small children made it hard to get out and I didn’t make the show, but we met the next day at the factory.
Pino flashed into our world with signing fretless octaved bass lines with Paul Young and Don Henley – down at the Sunset Grill! He turned everybody’s ears! He was also one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. At this point in his career he was just moving away from the fretless thing. He was and is a big fan of James Jamerson. His new thing was big, fat, and thumpy P-Bass stuff. His axe of choice during the fretless thing was a 1978 Musicman Stingray. He told me he asked Musicman – now owned by Ernie Ball and run by his son Sterling – to make him a strings through body bass. How easy is this! They refused and I thank them for that! We made a few basses for Pino. He ended up with a 5-string he liked and a teal “Pino”green P-bass / Bob Glaub model that he still uses today. Even though he has a Fender signature model we are still close friends. He calls every time he is in town!
He helped us in 1996 by allowing us to use his image in an ad in Bass Player. It brought real cred to us when it was sorely needed.
I believe Jason saw our ad in Bass Player magazine. I am a huge Chicago fan and Jason had just joined a few years before his replacing Peter Certera. Another factor about Jason was his father is truly a bass legend – Jerry Scheff. Jerry had played with Elvis, the Doors, and Neil Diamond to name a few.
Jason loved our products. He had just been to Fender and told me that at Fender he had to go through ten basses before he found one that was okay. I pulled one Lakland down from the rack at random. It was perfect – he tried a second – also perfect. I posed the question, “Do you want to add your name to an inferior quality product?” He bit and went home with a beautiful blue 5-string bass. I also sent a bass to his father.
Jerry is a wonderful guy. I started realizing that in addition to being amazing players the studio legends all were great guys to hang out with. Jerry came into Chicago to do an Elvis the concert show in 1998. I thought it would cheesy. It turns out it was one of the best concerts I ever saw Elvis on the big screen from prior concert performances and the band – TCB band – live on stage!
Jerry has stories from all prior employers from Elvis (both Presley and Costello) to the Doors! Read his book!
Seeing Johnny Cash live was a real treat. Before the show at the Chicago House of Blues I got to meet Johnny twice. First, backstage he came right up to meet, extended his hand and said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” He then got some food from the catering table and circled around and once again said “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” David Roe is an incredible bassist. Known for his “Slapping Upright thing” Davie is the real deal. He told me 2 stories:
- At an airport June Carter dropped her purse. The pills inside – reportedly pain killers, made a rumble to which Johnny said – “June! Your purse sounds like a morocca.”
- At a festival in Nashville a young stagehand spotted Johnny off the side of the stage he came up extended his hand and said “Hey Johnny, give me 5!”. Johnny replied, “Sorry son, I don’t play paddy cake!”
Just before Lakland started in 1994 my wife Cheryl and I were big fans of Dwight Yoakham. My last pre-Lakland concert was a Dwight show. His bassist wore puffy shirts and with a name like Taras Prodaniuk I pegged him as a European. It turns out he is Californian. I got his contact info from Bass Player magazine which had just done a story on him. I contacted him and we became fast friends. He is a techy when it comes to bass. He left Dwight and went on to Lucinda Williams and now he shares his time with Richard Thompson and Merle Haggard.
When Lakland first began I got really behind on my voicemails. One day while tackling 20 or so, I heard the message, “Hi, I’m Tony Garnier with Bob Dylan.” I almost fell out of my chair! Luckily, he forgave my slow response. Tony is as laid back and genuine an article as they come. He’s closing in on 30 years with Bob. Out pacing the runner up by 4 times! Bob’s current singing voice is rather rough, but his band I first class. I always get a sense of history when seeing Bob Dylan. I can liken it to seeing Shakespeare reading on of his plays. This guy will live forever! In 1996 while doing a performance for the Pope, Coach Dylan’s soundman came in to give the sonic report – “Bass Sounds Amazing!” – the crowd was 500,000! At this point Bob turned to Tony and Tony showed him his new Lakland Bass! Tony is always willing to try new things I have used him as a beta tester many times!
The first time I saw Bob with Tony was in 1996 at the Cabaret Metro, a small 500 seat club right across the street from Wrigley Field. I took down a poster and asked Tony to get an autograph for me. He politely told me no. He doesn’t ask Bob for anything like that. That is why he is still there! He told me about a guitarist coming in to an audition and had Bob sign some records. He lost the gig before he even played one note! Important lesson! I’ve been backstage many times, but have never met Bob. I wouldn’t know what to say to him anyways…
In the late 90’s Bob was playing at Alpine Valley Music Theater. Widespread Panic opened the show followed by Bob and then Phil Lesh. I got many friends into the show. They paid, but got amazing seats – all together – in the 10th row. Tony did not have tickets for us, but offered to let us sit by the bass tech’s station. This station was fully visible to all of our friends. Cheryl and I enjoyed the show, it was almost like being part of the band! The sound was not great so at one point I turned to Cheryl and asked if she would like to go out front. She looked at me like I was an idiot! “I’m not going anywhere!”
At one point a member of Widespread Panic came and sat by us on the stage. Bob’s security promptly ejected the band member. Now that’s a way to make me feel very important!
Rhonda was a catch! She was amazing and she opened the door to Prince himself. We made her a few basses . She was quite demanding in a very nice way. Prince liked the tone and wanted one for himself. Prince being Prince, he asked for a black power fist to come shooting off the head of the bass. The problem was the electronics were to complex. He’d prefer 1 or 0 knobs as opposed to the standard 5! I met his tech at a Namm show. He told me he has tried to explain the contro,l but Prince just walks away. He did hold it on a cover shoot for Bass Player magazine. Great exposure. Rhonda held 2 Laklands up in an ad for GHS. Great and almost free advertising.
Keith is important for a few good reasons. He got me into the U2 camp. He is also now one of, if not my best friend. Keith is from Ireland and toured the United stated with a band called the Corrs. Although they never hit it big on this side of the pond they were a huge success in Ireland, England, and the rest of Europe!
Keith comes round about once a year and stays at our home. He is almost family. Cheryl and I got the chance to visit Ireland and hang with him in 2004.
His friend Stuart Morgan is Adam Clayton, the tech with U2. We got a few basses to him – one Bass Player cover and countless DVD performances! We are a part of history because of this. Stuarts’ claim to fame happened in 1993 when Adam was too sick to play so Stuart took his place in front of tens of thousands!
Keith is an amazing bassist. I’ve seen him on countless stages and TV performances. One night during one of his visits we hung out at the Yolles’ house (high school friends) and did some jamming. This is when I saw the true Keith – oh yeah, he is good. I hope we will be able to work together on my latest project – D. Lakin Basses. He I playing the prototype and already sold one!
Stuart Morgan came my way because of Keith Duffy. A tech for U2 , Stuart is always looking for top quality basses that will make his job as Adam Claytons tech that much easier.