Music Discussion Series

I’m an Asheville, North Carolina-based author and public speaker. If you’re local to the region, you may have seen my byline in Mountain Xpress, Bold Life, WNC Magazine or other publications; to date I’ve published over 4,000 written pieces, mostly covering popular music.

But that’s just part of what I do: I have been hosting numerous presentations in and around WNC, focusing on popular music topics. The idea is a simple one: I provide an engaging, enriching and fun experience for attendees. By design, these 60 to 90-minute presentations are highly interactive, encouraging audience participation. Dialogue among attendees is a big part of what makes them special. The series provides deeper understanding and greater enjoyment of recording artists, albums, styles of music and so on.

I’ve done presentations at a number of venues in and around the region: UNC Asheville, Malaprops’ Bookstore, REVOLVE, Citizen Vinyl, Asheville Guitar Bar and Grail Moviehouse in the River Arts District are just a few of them.

Every presentation is unique – sometimes I work on my own, sometimes draw from a roster of notable guests; they provide humor and lively insight. I offer a wide variety of topics (see below for samples); I’m also happy to put together a program based on what a particular audience would like to discuss.

I’ve done much to make this experience easy and rewarding. I handle most all of the technical needs for the presentations: I have my own small loudspeaker system, wireless headset mic and a wireless handheld mic for audience participation.

The event is designed to be engaging, but not too long: customarily I keep it to between 60-90 minutes, but like most everything else, that can be adjusted according to the needs of a specific group/audience.

Sample Topics (an incomplete list!)

  • Pioneers of Rock ‘n’ roll – The dozen-plus celebrated figures who laid the groundwork for the music we’ve come to know as rock ‘n’ roll. Their influence can’t be overstated, and their music has endured. Who were they and where did they come from?
  • Overlooked Architects of Rock ‘n’ roll – Beyond household names, several other lesser-known artists were important parts of the story of early rock ‘n’ roll; what were their contributions and why are they worth remembering?
  • Jump Blues and Swing – It’s accepted wisdom that country, blues and r&b all influenced the development of rock ‘n’ roll. But the postwar jump blues and swing movement is an too-often ignored inspiration for rock. A kind of missing link between the Big Band era and rock ‘n’ roll, this fun and exciting dance-based music is responsible for a lot of the musical values we take for granted today. What was jump blues and swing all about, and who were its leading lights? 
  • The British Invasion – Across the Atlantic in England, musicians were discovering American music, filtering it through their own unique sensibilities, and then serving it back up to American audiences. How and why did that unlikely sequence of events happen?
  • Roots of the Beatles – The world-famous foursome from Liverpool grew up on a steady diet of early rock, Motown, girl group pop, rhythm and blues and show tunes. All of those inspirations manifested in the Beatles’ original music. Who were their influences?
  • The Beatles’ Musical Journey – The group’s recording career lasted a mere eight years (1962-69). In that short period they progressed by leaps and bounds, changing the face of pop music. What were the key advancements in their style?
  • Brill Building: American Pop Paradise – A remarkable amount of hit music on the pop landscape can trace its origin back to a single building at 1619 Broadway in New York City. Dozens of songwriters – from Burt Bacharach to Carole King to Sonny Bono to Paul Simon – wrote songs in the Brill Building. What was the secret of the “Brill Building sound”?
  • Lost in Translation – As formidable a force as the British Invasion was, many fine groups in that scene somehow failed to find success in the United States. Who are among the most notable artists whose music is ripe for rediscovery?
  • American Garage Rock – Influences worked both ways. Inspired by British acts, countless teenagers across the U.S. took up instruments and started their own groups, creating what we now call the “garage rock” movement. What were its highlights? (NOTE: Includes music from North Carolina and regional/local artists.)
  • The Pre-fab Four – During their time together – and despite a long string of hit songs and a popular television show – The Monkees weren’t always taken as seriously as their music deserved. We’ll take a look at the group’s enduring yet complicated legacy, one that’s filled with musical riches.
  • Sunshine Pop – An important movement in mid- to late ‘60s popular music, “Sunshine pop” built upon hooks, adverting jingles and pre-rock styles to create music that wasn’t about “making art.” Instead it was designed almost exclusively for listening pleasure. We’ll look back, listen and smile.
  • Stax vs. Motown – American rhythm & blues and soul were both key parts of the soundtrack of the American 1960s. The twin capitals of this sound were Memphis, Tennessee and Detroit, Michigan. How did these two very different styles of music develop, and what are the highlights of those movements?
  • Technological Breakthroughs in ‘60s Pop Music – The development of multi-track recording and the advent of synthesizers both changed the character and sound of popular music. How did those innovations come about, and what did it mean to music?
  • The San Francisco Sound – The city by the Bay was a key spot for musical innovation in many musical styles, form jazz to folk to rock. Who were some of the most significant musical artists to come out of those scenes, and what made San Francisco music unique?
  • The L.A. Sound – With the so-called “Wrecking Crew” at its foundation, the center of the world’s entertainment industry was also a hotbed of musical innovation. What are the highlights and connecting threads of Los Angeles pop music of the ‘60s?

Please get in touch, and let’s discuss how my popular music discussion events can become part of your activities calendar.