Denny Laine: Moody Wing Band at The Kate
Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Denny Laine still sports a Brit accent that makes him sound a lot like John Lennon, who grew up a couple of hours away in Liverpool.
That makes a cool phone chat when you’re talking about the old days to a guy who not only helped found the great Moody Blues but played with Sir Paul McCartney in Wings for a decade.
Laine and his newish band, the five-piece Moody Wing Band, will be performing in Old Saybrook on Jan. 10 at the Katharine Hepburn Performing Arts Center. It will be part of a tour starting Jan. 9 that runs through April 13 (at Hartford’s Infinity Hall).
“I’ve just kind of been building it slowly,” said Laine, 74, from his north New Jersey home, “but now we’re taking it seriously. We’ve got a new management company and agency... but I’m also doing solo shows as well.”
The set list in Old Saybrook will feature the “Band on the Run” album from Wings and the Moody Blues album “The Magnificent Moodies” (from 1964, when Laine sang lead on the huge hit “Go Now”).
“It’s the two albums that are the most precious to me because I was more involved with those albums than anything else, really,” said Laine, who left the Moody Blues in October 1966.
Laine said the group picked “Go Now” because it had a piano, which the band featured early on. “And it went down great with audiences when we used to do it in our show. So we decided to record it, we went in the studio, did a couple of takes and that was it. And then we went on the Chuck Berry tour... that kind of established us in Britain with the audience. (The song) changed everything.”
Laine said when he went on to do his Electric String Band, he found himself opening for the Moody Blues at one point. He said he’s proud of what the Moodies have done in the many years since.
Grammy winner Laine played for other groups, such as the Diplomats, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, supergroup World Class Rockers and a group called Balls. He first met the Beatles in London at a club, while with the Moodies.
“And we all started becoming friends, and then they started coming by our place on the way out to their homes, and dropping in and playing ... music and stuff like that.”
So after McCartney, Lennon and Peter Asher saw Laine doing his thing with the string band during a famous show in London headlined by Jimi Hendrix, McCarney asked him to be part of a new band, in 1971. Although it came with the downside of being compared to the Beatles, “that was a great challenge and it worked,” Laine said. “I knew Paul and I knew it would be something good.”
Wings produced hits such as “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Let ’Em In” and “Live and Let Die.” (A new Wings box set is called “Wild Life.”)
“We had a relationship where we grew up on the same music,” said Laine of collaboration with McCartney. “... In other words, you didn’t have to sell me on anything. ... Even though he did most of the writing, it was definitely a group effort.”
As for the late Linda McCartney’s presence in Wings, criticized at first by many for her live playing, Laine said, “It bothered me to start with that she wasn’t really a musician. She couldn’t be used really like a keyboard player. But her main influence, which a lot of people, even Michael Jackson commented on it, liked the blend of her voice with ours. ... It took a while, but she wasn’t that bad in the studio ... she did have a voice.”
Longevity, said Laine, comes from enjoying being in a band, always looking to a new challenge and enjoying the feedback of audiences. Even after 60 years.
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