I also was with a group out of Texas called the Sir Douglas Quintet. For about four, or five years, I played bass guitar for them. I joined them on our big hit called MENDOCINO. It was a great band in the '60s. I miss that groove we used to have and I miss the people behind the scene, like producer Tom Ayers.
You asked me, if I am writing an autobiography. Yes, I am. It's the true story of my life. The title of it is a simple one, which I think everyone will understand. It's called SUCCESS MY BIGGEST FAILURE. What I mean by it, is that success turned out to be a big failure for me and my family. It seems every time I had success, I ended up in some mental hospital, which turned out to be my biggest failure, if you know what I mean. But I survived, got through it all and I'm still here to talk about it. I learned my lesson, thank God.
CM: Your music has been recorded by many other artists. A good deal of money has been made by others, especially with HEYA. It's pretty shocking, when you see that platinum-winning musicians in Germany attribute your song HEYA to Jeronimo (see last line)! To set the record straight and let you tell the story, we'd like to go through some of your records in more detail. Let's start with HEYA.
JS: I made HEYA back in 1969 in Hollywood, California. I was signed up with Liberty Records and HEYA was the first big album I did. It was on United Artists Records and is now with Capitol Records archives. Some great musicians played on this record. One of them was Jim Gordon, who played drums for Eric Clapton and Derek and the Dominos. Also on it was another great drummer, Earl Palmer, who played with everybody back in those days.
On bass was Joe Osburn. Michael Lloyd rode out the horn charts. Gary Rowles, a very good friend of mine, was on guitar, as was another great guitar player Ron Morgan. On piano and organ was Larry Knechtel who worked with Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, The Doors, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Presley, as well as the 1970s band Bread. There were so many others that I can't name them all, but they were all good, the singers, the engineers, just everybody.
CM: Tell us about ADIOS.
Allen Rich and Randy Meisner of the Eagels did the background singing. Walter Kibby played drums, as well as Joe Pallard, and Jay Lacey played guitar. Slide guitar was Danny Johnson who then went on to Steppenwolf. The harmonica player Tetsuya Nakamura who played with War. The horn player was Jerry Juomonville. The piano player was John Hobbs, who now produces and plays piano for Vince Gill. The guitar and steel was Vern Monnett. I also had a great engineer. His name was J. P. Houston. I played bass on all the tracks and sang all the songs.
JS: I produced this album with songs I wrote about the American people, the Navajo, who I do love. I wanted it to be heard all over the world about the way the "Red Man" was treated back in them days of life. I played most of the instruments on this album. I also had a couple of guitar players who helped me out, Bill Witt and Kirk Baldwin, some fine musicians. The drummer was Al Avery, a great drummer.
JS: HOLYDAY BLUES was and is my Christmas Album. I wrote all the songs on it and did it all on a 4-track machine. I think, I wrote some pretty good new Christmas songs that no one has ever heard before. They're about how I feel about Christmas time. I played all the instruments on it, except for the drum machine, a TR707 Roland.
CM: You also did a spiritual album?
JS: Yes, I did. It's called SONGS FOR JESUS. I write these songs for the man I love most, Jesus Christ. I wrote all about how I feel and how much he has been there for me. I also played all the instruments on this CD, and as before, I used 4-track and the TR707 Roland drum machine. Just as my other albums, this and all the others are under my record label, SRK Records and SRK Publishing BMI.
CM: Then you got back to your Navajo roots…
JS: Yes, I did WON-KAN-TONKA OH GREAT SPIRIT. It is a CD I wrote and produced about the Navajo people, for I believe it's an album that needs to be heard. Jim Wilson and Robbie Robertson of the Band helped put the music to this cool CD. Some of the best musicians played on it like Rockin' Robin on guitar, George Rains on drums, and Michael Lombardi also on guitar. We also recorded some tracks at Michael's house. Good job, Michael!
CM: How about the tribute you made to your mother?
JS: I dedicated this album to my dearly beloved mother, Triny Mary Stallings Rock. I love the songs I wrote on this album, because they are very personal to me. I played all the instruments on it, except drums. Al Avery was on drums, and Kirk Baldwin was on guitar. Joanie Cere, Al Avery, Kirk Baldwin, and I sang background vocals. Take a lissin' to this one CD, it's a dream come true for me.
CM: Throughout much of your career, you were based in Los Angeles. What made you decide to move back to Albuquerque?
JS: Yes, I've lived in Los Angeles California for almost 40 years. I loved every minute of being there in that big city. I played with a lot of good bands that I put together in them days. I moved back to my home state when I was 52 years old. When my dear mother wasn't feeling well, my wife and I decided to move back to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be closer to her. She passed on now, and I decided to stay here in Albuquerque. It's a real nice town to live in.
All my children still live in Los Angeles, and we do miss them a lot. Now and then, we go back to LA, to visit them. But now, that my wife and I are getting older, we like living here in Albuquerque better than in LA. It's not so complicated for us.
CM: Does being in Albuquerque inspire you?
J.S.: I definitely draw creative energy from being back in New Mexico. I have a lot of good friends in Albuquerque. My best friend here is Jeff D. Sipe, a great painter and artist, also a fine bass player of the Blues. We have a lot of fun together.
CM: Has your music changed after moving back to New Mexico?
J.S.: The music I play today is still the same. I'm writing a lot more songs than in my older days. I'm doing better now than before. The songs I write today mean more to me. Every day I'm writing a new song. I just love writing songs. It's part of my being. The CDs I make show the different times, I'm living in these days. I want everyone to know that my songs come from the heart. And some of my good friends from Texas have helped me along the way, such as Rick and Link Davis Jr. Not to forget, there are also Pat and Lolly Vegas of Redbone and the famous Jimmy George, a amazing writer, musician, and producer.
CM: How is the music scene in Albuquerque?
J.S.: The music scene here in Albuquerque New Mexico is quite good. A lot of blues players are here. There's Jazz, Country Music, plus Latin and Spanish music; a lot of good music of different styles.
But it's hard to make a living in this town being a musician because they pay no money here to bands, or very little, if they do. The way they pay most musicians here, is by giving them a free meal and make them play for tips. And I hate it. Musicians should be paid with mon ey. We've got to live just like everyone else. Anyway, they all seem to be having a good time, and that's a good thing.
CM: Are you in touch with the your old musician friends?
CM: You are a very spiritual man and your music comments on many of today's problems. What are your concerns and how do you address them in your various albums and songs?
J.S.: I believe I've always been a very spiritual man throughout my life. And I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ. I believe he was born to be my Savior, and that's just the way it is with me. I don't know if I could've made it this far in life without Him. He has always been the most important one in my life and always will be. My family and I will follow him to the end. He has blessed us all and has given so much to all of us.
CM: Family is important to you.
J.S.: Yes, I'm a family man and always will be. I believe a family is the most important and precious thing a man can have in his life. I'm so grateful for my family, and they are my biggest blessing I have to this day.
CM: Tell us about your wife.
J.S.: My wife is the best thing that ever happened to me. I love and worship the ground she walks upon. She's been my rock now for over 51 years, and I just love her so much. She's my best friend in this world. I'm so lucky to have her for my wife. I don't want no other than that beautiful woman in my world.
CM: Recently, you were back in Los Angeles to attend your daughter Angel's graduation.
J.S.: Yes, I went back to Los Angeles to see my youngest daughter Angel Stallings, whom I'm very proud of. She graduated from Pepperdine University getting her Masters Degree. She's a wonderful daughter and a beautiful one indeed. She has made me very proud father, and I do love that young lady with all of my heart. Her sister Jamie Lozano is a wonderful mother and a great daughter to me. I love them both with all my heart.
CM: Did you visit old musician friends in L.A.? What are they concerned about?
J.S.: Yes, I did get to visit a few of my friends when I was in LA, and they all seem to be doing good for themselves. What we all are concerned about is, what this old world is going to be like, if we don't wake up and make it a better place for all of us to live in. I believe all my friends have a great love inside their hearts for the human race. I know I do and will always believe in my fellow men.
CM: You are a very prolific songwriter, you record new albums all the time. What keeps you going?
J.S.: Yes, I do write a lot of songs these days. It's what keeps me going and stay alive. I am so happy I have my own studio in my house. I have a record company called SRK Records. I also own my own publishing company called SRK Pub. I have over 300 songs with BMI Music, and I'm very proud of them all.
CM: Which younger musicians do you admire?
J.S.: I love most of the young musicians today, because they're saying a lot more than I did, when I was young. I think the young generation is coming along just fine and will do well in the future. Among today's people I admire are Mike Lombardi, Keefe Novoa, Michael O'Neill, Jimmy George, and Larry Carlton with whom I played in a band called Ruben Rodgriguez and his Guadulajara Kings. We recorded two albums together on Liberty Records. They're all great players. I just hope that all goes well with all of them.
CM: What's your advice for young musicians?
J.S.: I tell young musicians that it is not what you play, but what you don't play that counts. They don't quite understand that at their age, but I know someday they will. I've learned a lot about people over the years, and I know most people want to be recognized as someone good and kind.
The first thing, I tell young musicians, is to be humble to others and to themselves. Don't be a jerk. It doesn't cost a penny to smile. So, smile. People can tell when a person is truthful, and when they are lying. So, always try to be truthful to others.
At all times, try to be yourself and nobody else. Life is too short to try to pretend. You can make it in this lifetime, if you just believe in yourself. So, go out and do just that. That's why I love to see young musicians, because they need to know about the future and what's in front of them.
CM: As a musician, what are your plans? Where are you heading?
J.S.: As a musician, I'm going to play every day I can and thank my God for all his blessing, he has bestowed upon me in this lifetime. I'm still here on this Earth, and I pray I still have something good to say, before I check out. I've tried my best to always be a good and kind person to all people I met along my journey in life. It's been an exciting road I've been on so far, and I know it will be a joyful ending for me. I want everyone to know that I have tried my best to do the right thing for this wonderful world we all live in. I thank God for all my good friends and their love and respect they have given to me, especially, my lovely family of love that I have shared this lifetime with. I love the world that I've found and I pray that one day it will be free for all people to live their lives out as one. So, keep the faith everyone, and don't give up, until you drink from the victor's cup. Keep on dreaming all you Rainbow Riders. The job is not done yet, but we will all get it done some day soon.
A Selection of J. J. LIGHT Songs on :
JIMMY STALLINGS LIVE PERFORMANCES WITH THE SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET ON :
Jimmy Stallings aka. J.J. Light on Facebook