Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gene LaFond Talks About Larry Kegan, Dylan and Upcoming Northland Gigs

Gene and Scarlet at Hibbing High School Auditorium
I first "met" Gene LaFond in a phone interview two years ago as he was preparing for the first Weber Hall benefit concert with Scarlet Rivera to raise money and awareness for the Armory Music and Arts Center. At the time our conversations circled around Bob Dylan and Scarlet, travels with the Rolling Thunder Revue and such. But his connection to Dylan came about by means of another connection, Gene's friendship with Larry Kegan, a boyhood friend of young Robert Zimmerman. I was unaware of how close Larry, Scarlet and Gene were until more recently. Larry's story says as much about the kind of people Geno (as he is fondly called by others) and Scarlet are as it does about the boyhood friend who never forgot him.

EN: How did you and Larry meet?
Larry K
Gene Lafond: Larry and I met at a party in college days in about 1969. We hit it off right away and even sang some songs together that night. He called me the next morning at 6 a.m. and asked if I would want to help drive him to Guadalajara, Mexico. I said, “When?” He said, "In about an hour." I was on break from school so I said, "Hell, Yes!" Didn’t know about his friendship with Bob until somewhere in Iowa.

EN: When did you and Larry start performing together? How did that get started?
GL: We just clicked musically right from the start. We began singing and writing songs from the start. We played a lot of benefits and small coffeehouse gigs and a lot of private parties. Larry couldn't scratch his nose but he would go out and sing for people and try to cheer them up. He had amazing strength and charisma as anyone who ever met him would attest.

EN: You’re both songwriters. Do you have a favorite song that Larry wrote? What about your own personal favorite from your personal portfolio?
GL: We wrote together. Favorite song that we wrote has to be "Some Get The Chair." It's on my "WIld Unknown" CD. The line "Won't let nothin' get me down..." says it all. Favorite song that I wrote is the next one that comes floating down the river of songs. If you take the time to reach out and latch on to it it feels like a gift.

Gene and Scarlet putting on a show to remember.
EN: Was the Rolling Thunder Revue your first time travelling with Bob?
GL: Rolling Thunder was the first time I met Bob in person. I do remember seeing him years earlier at the Ten O'Clock Scholar in Dinkytown. It was a beatnik coffeehouse that we used to go to in high school because you could drink "Near Beer" and listen to odd poetry, snap your fingers and hear folk music in a smoky room. Bob was still Bob Zimmerman at the time. In late 1975 Larry called me and said, "Pack up! We're heading east to hook up with this travelling carnival that Bob has cooked up.” We drove all day and all night and arrived in Worchester, Mass in the middle of the show. I remember walking into the venue with the laminates that Bob left for us and seeing him on stage with face paint and that terrific hat brimmed with flowers. He looked like a shaman! Powerful and incredibly confident. We shook hands the next morning at breakfast and Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Scarlet Rivera, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the whole cast of characters treated us like special members of the crew. What a thrill.

EN: You also left the country with Larry a few times. What was your most memorable or exotic location that you went to together?
GL: Memorable exotic travels? There were many. We went to Belize together twice and all over Mexico. Larry had friends everywhere. He loved to travel and show his friends strange and unusual places that you would never believe a guy in a wheelchair could navigate. But he did it with style.

EN: Do you have a personal favorite Dylan albums that you listen to?
GL: Favorite Dylan Album? So very many. I am really diggin the New Bootleg #10 Cd. A lot of songs are just him and the piano or guitar. Raw, demos. I can just see him sitting at the piano singing with such confidence. Wonder if there is any video of those sessions? Priceless!

EN: When you’re not listening to Dylan who else do you like to listen to?
GL: I have been listening to a band called Shovels and Rope, The Pistol Annies, Jack Johnson but mostly, since I have retired from my day job, I am excited about the new music I have been writing with my friend Amy Lee. So wonderful to have time to work on my music and not just work.

Also, Scarlet and I will be doing at least two duo gigs after the May, 17 Armory Gig. Friday, May 23 at the Green Door in Beaver Bay and Saturday May 24 (Bob's birthday party) at the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais. We are also hoping to do an intimate house concert earlier in the week. We will let you know how that develops. It is such a treat to perform with Scarlet as a duo. She is so inspiring.

* * * *
Learn more about Geno at http://www.genelafond.com/

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.

No comments: