The Son of McVouty, Mark Gaillard talks about Bulee Slim, Marvin Gaye, Jack Kerouac, Fillmore & Greece

"Bohemians were outside the box as well as the young people today following Slim (Gaillard) and speaking the Vout."

Mark Gaillard: Vout-O-Ree-Nee Cool Cat!

Mark Gaillard is the lead singer of the National Blues Band. But Gaillard is not your typical rock musician who started to play in bands just to annoy his parents. No, it's more serious than that--being a musician is in his blood. His father was famed singer-composer Slim Gaillard, who recorded with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk and was a regular on the Los Angeles club scene in the 1940s. Born in Cuba, the senior Gaillard wrote a number of novelty tunes including "Cement Mixer Putti Putti" and "Flat Foot Floogie." In fact, Gaillard's 1930s recording of "Flat Foot Floogie" can be heard in the film "The English Patient." The elder Gaillard created his own scat language, which he called "Vout."

It involved the frequent addition of "o-rooney" and "vouty" to the ends of existing words, such as jukebox-o-rooney. He even wrote an English-Vout dictionary. We can hear some of his tribute songs to Slim, such as "Flat Foot Floogie" and "Vout O Reenee". Also, on YouTube, has various other recordings in different styles including blues, jazz, rock, country, R&B and funk. "Mellow McVouty On The Ground" is a Slim’s "Vout" language in a funk/hip hop style. Most of the songs he co-wrote with a very talented producer, songwriter, Donna Sigalas, sister of the late, guitar player, Larry Wilkins, who was best known for his work with Eric Burdon.

Janis Hunter is his sister, also known as Janis Gaye, Marvin Gaye's second wife. He spent a lot time with his sister when they were young running around Marvin Gaye's studio. Also, Mark worked for Marvin with his younger brother, Frankie Gaye for ten years at Marvin’s studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Mark’s birth certificate, which his father gave him, states that birth name is, Mark Christian Rothschild. Slim's name on the birth certificate, is Bulee Rothschild. Rothchild was his true given last name, as he was the son of Theopholis Rothschild. Mark have two children, Jennifer, who is getting her Master's Degree in Education, and hosts the official Slim Gaillard Family Website; and Christina, who is a full-time musician and a very accomplished drummer. Christina sings in her own style and has mastered several other instruments as well. Both of his daughters continue the legacy of Slim Gaillard. McVouty rides again!

Interview by Michael Limnios

How do you describe Mark Gaillard sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

Description would be by my influences. An article in the Los Angeles Times valley addition by James Fowler titled "Slim and then Some" speaks of my influences as my father of course growing up and the blues that was so strong in San Francisco in beginning of the Fillmore Auditorium on Fillmore Str which is the area I grew up. The Fillmore district. Started going there around 15 hearing the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Bozz Skaggs, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape, Hendrix, Santana etc. with groups from Chicago like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Buddy Guy, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Junior Wells, Mama Mae Thornton, James Cotton and on and on.

I knew Bill Grahams nephew, Abraham Chechinsky, as we went to school together at George Washington High School. Bill used to let us in for free as we were local kids going there every night. When we first started going there the crowd was about 200 strong. The next week there was 500. Then 1000. Finally it got so popular the jet set showed up and there were limos down the street and around the corner and the Fillmore was a tremendous hit. Bill still let us neighborhood kids in for free half price since we were there from the beginning. We soon found out about an after hour club in Sausalito called the Ark that whoever was in town would go to jam after hours till around 8 in the morning. They let us in there as well. We had a ball.

"The music from the past had energy, good vibes, make you happy and heal some of your spots in your soul to make you feel the glow in your heart and feel very much hip as Slim would say."

(Photo: Slim Gaillard)

Why did you think that the Slim Gaillard’s music continues to generate such a devoted following?

His devoted following is because of the man. He was funny, creative in his language with his O Rooney and Vouti at the end of his words, highly intelligent speaking at least 8 languages, the type of music you could feel silly with and comfortable in his presentation and talent. You feel like he is in your front room sitting comfortably as he says at the beginning of the BBC documentary and you know he will take you out into Vountland the more you listen. A cool Cat!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The music from the past had energy, good vibes, make you happy and heal some of your spots in your soul to make you feel the glow in your heart and feel very much hip as Slim would say. You could just lay your hand on the radio and feel healed in your inner Mojo. You start feeling mellow vouty! Sort of like Charlie Chaplin doing his magic. Puts a smile on your face. You feel included and you are in the Vout!

My hopes and fears for the future is that the junior Voutees and the not yet born Voutees become bigger and bigger in their Vout and they will know the Vout is all about and it will never die. It’s a feeling; it’s a fun thing for the heart and soul rather than the coldness of the world that seems to freeze the water in people so it is not free flowing and silly and about having a good time which supports a healthy mind and soul. We all need this and also to remind ourselves of this to see the positive and enjoy ourselves which causes longevity and satisfaction while we are here and to spread that feeling and in this case or channel it is called the Vout!

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and jazz culture?

Seeing so much of the blues greats up close for so long I became deeply influenced by the Blues. I started with that have continued on with my deep love for the blues, especially Willie Dixon. I later met his widow, Mrs. Dixon, as her publishing company and my company for Slim were parked at the same place, Bug Music. As Jack Kerouac stated in his book, On The Road, Slim became tired and laid down under a tree and gave birth to the blues. I met B.B. King one day and he said one of his influences was Slim Gaillard and he loved the way he played the guitar. He said he was working on the field when he listened to my father on the radio. Even Michael Jackson, R&B, has a video up early on doing Slim's tune Flat Foot Floogie and done quite well.  Making a short story long, these are the influences from my childhood and when I got older and met Marvin Gaye he had a tremendous influence on me with the Motown sound having worked in his studio watching him record for around ten years. When I first met Marvin he took me aside and said Mark, alot of people don't know who your father was but he is known as an Artist amongst Artists and is highly respected. Having spent time with Marvin and Slim they have been my biggest influence along with the blues. I always do a few tribute songs to Slim when I am recording having played with him in Los Angeles with my band at the time, The Slim and Trim Band, as well as taking him around to such places a Donte's, Pasqualis in Malibu and many other places at the time. We had alot of fun at Donte's hanging out with Freddie Hubbard, Al Jarreau, Dianne Krall, and many other artists like Scat Man Corothers all the time. We would always head back to Marvin's studio after the night was done. Clint Eastwood and many other people would come to see him playing there or sitting in. What a magical time. Slim had basically retired up by Sea Tac and Tacoma Washington and had an apple farm up there. He said he liked it as the apples had nothing to say and didn't talk back as the Hollywood scene. He was playing up there in some of the local clubs and we partied and got around to all the hot spots.

I finally convinced him, with the help of my sister, to move to Los Angeles and to jump back into the mainstream. He said that he was forgotten and that no one wanted to hear his music. It was quite the opposite when we got there. We drove down in his motorhome to Los Angeles to Marvin Gaye's Studio and began getting around to the hot spots and it was a short time and Dizzy called for him to New York and George Wein called for him to come to Holland and he was out there again and the rest was history.

Before he went overseas there were many good times with my father recording and him producing my music and guiding me into the Vout! It was great learning from two different Masters in two different directions. My music is a combination of the two of them and my own creations and visions. It’s so much fun when I begin developing off of these Champions. Mrs. Dixon introduced me to Carey Bell, at that time her son in law and he sat in and played with us at Smokin' Johnnies Live which is on my songbook. Also a song influenced by my father, Baby Blue, I got in the Mike Hammer Show, Songbird Part Two with my band at that time called the National Blues Band. Another song was Kissyface/HotFreeze he helped me with that landed in Penetentiary One with Leon Isaac Kennedy. Slim and Marvin both liked my music.

What does the blues mean to you?      Photo by Bertrand Henry Miles / Slim & Monkey

The blues breathes with life love and pain. Pretty much describes life. A tremendous amount of emotion of all sorts in the blues. Easily seen in the great artists as Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and of course Muddy and Howlin Wolf, Albert King, Freddie King and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. And the Dead in their own way.  Felt this in my own life prior to meeting my father at around 22 as his life had a lot of pain with his own abandonment being left to fend for himself in Greece after being separated from his family. Slim spent time with me at Marvins's studio helping me develop my material and spending time with me to heal the void with the Vout!

My earliest stuff was directly influenced by him as well as playing with him. Wrote a song called Space People which Marvin loved and my father that Marvin brought his producers in to hear as he wanted to do the tune. Al Cleveland loved it as well and Ed Townsend and Rick James. Unfortunately things started going south for Marvin and it was never released.

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which memory from Marvin Gaye makes you smile?

Most memorable time is when I was at Marvin's studio with Rick and Marvin doing some final mixes with my father and Marvin sent me out to get some sandwiches and I was in the sandwich shop when they played Rick's song Kinky Girl and watched everyone started casually gyrating to the sound. When I got back to the studio I told Marvin, my Dad, and Rick that it was a hit. Rick said Thanks. Marvin and my dad smiled. Also seeing Stevie and Smokey sing happy birthday spontaneously at his birthday party right in front of me and my dad an Ed Townsend. What a thrill! Marvin was lovin it.

Also I forgot one night at Marvin Gaye's studio I will never forget. When Muhammad Ali was invited to the studio and I had to receive him and show him around the studio till Marvin arrived. Unfortunately, Marvin was delayed for around three hours. I had to do everything I could to make him feel comfortable and entertain him for that long period of time. At that time it was me and him. He was the heavy weight Champion of the world at that time. Didn't want him to get upset! Ha Ha. It ended up being fine. Marvin's studio has since been turned into a museum and fully restored back to that period of time. Very cool to see if you are ever out this way.

"Something to change in the music business is more publicity on the air waves of different music. It’s done on the Web but most of the major stations are still elevator music compared to what is out there."                                                                                                  (Photo: Marvin Gaye)

Are there any memories from the late Slim Gaillard which you’d like to share with us?

Slim loved playing for people and any time he could he would ham it up and get everyone laughing. Going up and down the coast with my dad was a thrill. Hanging with him in club after club. Meeting with the CIA and mafia he knew and enjoying his music and writing with him. He like my jazzy stuff and Marvin like the R&B stuff. I began to feel Slim's music from his soul. The blues in Slim brought me to the Vout in him!. I love to do tribute songs to him and am currently playing in a Busy Seigal Mystery Theatre Cabaret and playing Slim doing his songs Flat Foot Floosie with the Floy Floy and Vout O Renee. Will send you a copy of the music and hopefully a video when we open it up to the public in about a month or so. Using the Wally Post Band for the music. Pretty cool.

What is the best advice ever given you? What are some of the most memorable shows and jams you've saw?

Best advice given to me by Slim was to do your own version of songs and not to worry about other people's music compared to your own and don't be afraid to reach out to something new. Step outside of the envelope.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues, Jazz, Slim Gaillard and "Vout" with the Beat generation?

The Beat generation as well as every generation like Slim as he was outside the frame of jazz as my good friend Joni Mitchell said she did even though she worked with the greats I respected as well to create her own music. She felt that the box could not hold back creativity. Her favorite video of Slim is Hellzapoppin. The whole energy expresses the openness to new ideas. Slim was a pioneer. As my father said He had seen many kingdoms rise fall and many people think they have paid their dues after a short stint in Hollywood. Bumped into BB King in a computer store and he told me Slim was a great guitar player and was one of his idols that he was ploughing the fields when my father was on the radio. Bohemians were outside the box as well as the young people today following Slim and speaking the Vout.

"The blues breathes with life love and pain. Pretty much describes life. A tremendous amount of emotion of all sorts in the blues."                                                       (Photo: Slim Gaillard)

The late Slim Gaillard was a Greek origin musician. How important was the Greece and how has affected his inspiration?

As you well know my father loved to cook. Always cooked too much and left food out for those without to have in the streets. He loved Grecian food and the feeling of its people. The scene in the BBC when he is at the the little stand and goes wandering off in the distance singing one of his songs is the love the vibes of the people of Greece. As the story says he fell asleep under a tree and missed the ship his father was a cook on, Theopolos Rothcdhild, probably originally from Greece and had to survive so he started singing and entertaining on the tradeships. Also, Jack Kerouac from the beat generation stated that Slim was feeling full and in labor and laid down under a tree and gave birth to the Blues! He open the door to this music that was and is legendary!

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

Things that have made me laugh lately in the music business is that so much copying going on as there are less innovators as my father willing to step out to create a new avenue to something. My father was willing to become the fool to make others laugh. Times were hard when he came up and he became accepted for his courage and his innovative writing. It’s like Miles Davis said that music was about sound and lack of sound. His songs were simple but they were deep in their own way. People got it and still get it today.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Something to change in the music business is more publicity on the air waves of different music. It’s done on the Web but most of the major stations are still elevator music compared to what is out there.

Which was the most interesting moment in your life? 

While I was hanging out with my dad in all the Jazz clubs around LA, I met my wife who was playing the piano at a club in Malibu. Mary and I went on to write and develop a number of songs together. Space People, Falling for Your Love, It's A Good Thing, and many, many more. In fact it was Marvin and Slim who said, "this is your wife" to me before I knew it. Our 2 best creations are our two beautiful daughters, Jennifer and Christina!

(Photo: Los Angeles, CA 1979 -- Mark Gaillard and Mary Gaillard)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Time Machine Trip? Back to the old days of SF with the blues, running with my father and visiting his haunts with all his stories in Greece and Europe in general. I could go on and on. I am sure this is more than you asked for but I can see I need to write a book about this and will begin to take it seriously. Any rate, here it is. Vout Out!

P.S. A new club has been opened in London called the Vout O Renee club started by Sophie Parkin. Weekly info on what’s happening at the Vout! Anthony Wall just showed the Civilization documentary at the club and Slim Gaillard is mentioned all the time! The Vout is still alive and well with Slim Gaillard in his Spaceship of Vouty as I say in my version of Vout O Renee! That's what it’s all a Vout!

 

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