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The Party Soul Rocker Releases "Back In 20"
Gary U.S. Bonds
I just do what I gotta do. And when they feel they're ready to put it out I go ok, here it is. - Gary U.S. Bonds
by Kristi Singer
 [Chorus and Verse] December 2004 Feature: Gary U.S. Bonds
Gary U.S. Bonds
Gary U.S. Bonds (Credit: John Cavanaugh)

Twenty years have passed since soul-rock singer Gary U.S. Bonds released his last studio album, Standing in the Line of Fire. Since then, he’s put out a string of collective and live albums - Take Me Back To New Orleans, King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Gary U.S. Bonds and From the Front Row Live " but there hasn’t been a new studio venture, until now.

Although Bonds had a string of hits in the early ’60s with songs like Quarter To Three and New Orleans (which was later covered by Bruce Springsteen and John Jett), and a successful release with 1981’s Dedication, he reached a point in his career where no one was interested in receiving a new album from him. So, he put his hat up.

“I think I was the only one interested,” Bonds said during a phone interview from his New York home. “Nowadays, in this business, you can’t push them out or force people do anything. I’m not out here to shake hands and make all kinds of weird statements to people. I just do what I gotta do. And when they feel they’re ready to put it out I go OK, here it is.”

The recording bug bit again when Bonds and his daughter, Laurie Anderson, built a home recording studio a few years ago. Laurie has been a writing partner of Bonds’ for the last 15 years, as well as a co-producer. What began as a “just for fun” hobby for the dad-daughter duo, resulted in Back in 20 " Bonds’ latest studio album. Back, released in June on M.C. Records, recaptures all of Bonds’ original R&B meets Roadhouse Rock sound, but now with a touch of Blues.

Bonds invited some notable cohorts to join in on the gala. They’re the kind of friends any musician would want to have: Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Phoebe Snow and original Allman Brothers Band lead guitarist Dickey Betts. They’re all Bonds’ pals and they all make appearances on Back in 20.

Dickey Betts lent his talents to tracks She Just Wants To Dance and Bitch/Dumb Ass that also features a duet by Bonds and Phoebe Snow. Bonds first met Betts at a New Jersey golf tournament many years ago.

“We talked about doing something together,” Bonds recalls. “Finally, I got this and I called him up and said ‘let’s do it’ and he said ‘you come play golf and we’ll do it.' So, I went down to Florida and played golf with him. We recorded his part down there and the rest of it was done here at the house."

Bonds and “The Boss” go back even further than Betts. The two first met at a Jersey club Bonds was playing in the late ’70s. “We just got together, sat at the bar, had a few beers, told a few jokes, sang a couple of songs and just remained friends ever since,” Bonds said.

Gary U.S. Bonds
Gary U.S. Bonds (Credit: Ed McCarthy)

Bonds and Springsteen have been collaborating musically since 1981, some highlights of which include 1982’s Dedication and On The Line, both produced in the early '80s by Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt.

On Back in 20, Springsteen plays guitar and contributes his backing vocals on Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks, which also features Southside Johnny on harmonica. Southside Johnny also plays harp and sings co-lead vocals on Fannie Mae and plays harp on Take Me Back.

Bonds pays tribute to other musical greats on Back, covering Otis Redding’s I’ve Got Dreams to Remember, Keb Mo’s She Just Wants to Dance and Delbert McClinton’s Every Time I Roll The Dice. Original tracks were co-written by Bonds, Anderson (who also co-produced the album) and musical director Mark Leimbach.

“I heard She Just Wants To Dance and I thought it was cute,” Bonds said of the Keb Mo’ piece. “I’ve seen a lot of girls like that in the club. The band will be playing, everybody’s sitting down and there will be that one girl standing in the middle of the floor dancing all night long. Leave her alone; don’t bother her, she just wants to dance.”

Overall, Bonds is happy with his labor of love and is getting ready for the next.

“We’ve already started doing some songs,” Bonds said. “We recorded 22 songs when we did this one and only 12 of them are released. We’re going to record a few more to see if we can get a nice mixture to put out 12 or 15 more. Maybe we won’t wait 20 years. Maybe 20 months, 20 minutes, I don’t know. I don’t think I could wait another 20.”

[ Website: www.garyusbonds.com ]

Kristi Singer is a Contributing Writer for Chorus and Verse.
©2004, Chorus and Verse
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