Q&A with Pat Liston, one of the founding members of Mama's Pride, a band known as "The Pride Of St. Louis"

"Always keep the listener in mind when you write and most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously. Know what you are and what you are not."

Pat Liston: A Musical Journey of Life

Pat Liston first gained widespread recognition as one of the founding members of Mama's Pride...a band known, with great affection as "The Pride Of St. Louis". This alone indicates much in a city renowned for its musical contributions such as Chuck Berry, Michael McDonald, Cheryl Crow, Nelly, Johnnie Johnson, Oliver Sain, Tina Turner, and others. Pat is a versatile singer/songwriter/musician, and spearheaded the band as a key writer and lead vocalist, as well as playing keyboard and slide guitar. Pat toured coast to coast with Mama's Pride alongside top recording artists such as The Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Bob Seger, Heart, Kansas, Alice Cooper, The Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynrd, REO Speedwagon, Ringo Starr, Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, Stephen Stills, Loggins & Messina and many more. In 2003 Pat released his first solo CD "Blue Mist" with eleven self-penned songs on it. His autobiography album '13 Notes to Life' released in 2013 -- a life of poetry and melancholy rhyme. One man's musical journey.                                (Photo: Pat Liston, a versatile singer, songwriter and musician)

Pat and Danny shared the stage together in 2013 as MAMA's PRIDE on the 'The Midwest Express Tour' at Verizon Amphitheater. Since then, Pat and Danny both have pursued solo and band projects separately.  It was time, they decided to take another go of it and collaborate on a project together, since the last time they had done so, was in '92 with the 'Guard Your Heart' CD.  Thus, the idea of 'The LISTON BROTHERS' was born.

Interview by Michael Limnios                      Pat Liston, 2014 interview @ blues.gr

How has the Rock n Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Not really much at all. My views of the world have pretty much been taken from life experiences itself. Having children has taught me more than music ever could.

When did the idea of Mama's Pride come about? What characterized Mama's Pride music philosophy?

I returned to St. Louis in 1972 to start a new band because I had been home just a few months before this and went to see the band my brother, Danny, was with. He started on drums, then went to bass, and now guitar. I was amazed at how good he’d gotten in such a short time. His voice had gotten strong, too. They were a good band, and the lead guitar player was exceptional — a 19- year-old kid named Max Baker.

The three of us went back to our mom’s house and started jamming in her basement that night. His guitar playing had already impressed me, but the vocal blend between the three of us was amazing. Danny and I were siblings, so our blend would have been obvious, but Max’s voice was one of those totally different voices that was meant to blend with Danny and I. The three-guitar thing was not what drew me — it was those harmonies. We didn’t really have a philosophy per se, the three of us just had a magic and I felt the biggest part of that was our vocal harmonies.

"I love technical guys, it impresses me, but I’d rather hear one note played with passion that 20 flaming notes in a measure." (Photo: Mama's Pride / Pat Liston first gained widespread recognition as one of the founding members of Mama's Pride - a band known, with great affection as "The Pride Of St. Louis")

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

Interesting question... I don’t think I ever saw life in terms of “obstacles”… I moved to L.A. in 1969 by myself, knowing no one out there. I had no real plan… I just wanted to be a success in my music. I’ve always felt I was more of a singer/songwriter than a musician. I am a good musician, but I never felt I was that guy who would “wow” people with my playing. Before Mama’s Pride I got a record deal with a small independent label called Oak Records. I spent time in Gold Star studio with the “Wrecking Crew”... An honor I still cherish.

I was fearless and terrified all at the same time. My L.A. accomplishments gave me the impetuous and courage to put together Mama’s Pride and bring them to L.A. All off my experiences have made me a better, overall, musician. I understand the process better. I could teach younger musicians (that are better players than myself) how to be better at their craft.

Are there any specific memories with Marshall Tucker and Bob Seger that you would like to tell us about?!

I was at “Hanks Bar” in Macon, GA. My manager, Alan Walden and his brother Phil, (from Capricorn Records), were meeting there with some others for business, which bored me. I walked over to the pool table. A guy with the biggest cowboy hat I’d ever seen was playing pool. There was a continuous run of Marshall Tucker songs on the jukebox. I said to the guy playing pool “They seem to like Marshall Tucker here”. He responded, “Yea, it’s embarrassing”. I said “Why would that embarrass you”? He laughed and stuck out his hand to shake and said, “I’m Toy Caldwell…. Wanna play pool”? We later opened for them 2 or 3 times.

We used to play a place called “Beggars Banquet” in Louisville periodically. We’d play 6 nights a week for 2 or 3 weeks at a time. On one of the Saturdays, the owner said he wanted to bring in this band the following Saturday that was opening for BTO in town. He said we’d get paid the same, we just had to do an opening slot. It turned out to be Bob Seeger. I didn’t really know who he was at the time, but they were great. The bar owner, Bob Seeger, and I played pinball til 4 a.m. that night after the gig. He was a nice guy… kept telling me to get out of this crazy business. He was frustrated with his career. He said they were working on a “live” album, which ended up going triple platinum!!

"I was fearless and terrified all at the same time. My L.A. accomplishments gave me the impetuous and courage to put together Mama’s Pride and bring them to L.A. All off my experiences have made me a better, overall, musician. I understand the process better. I could teach younger musicians (that are better players than myself) how to be better at their craft." (Photo: Pat Liston)

What's the balance in music between technique skills and soul emotions?

I love technical guys, it impresses me, but I’d rather hear one note played with passion that 20 flaming notes in a measure.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

OH MY…. I was not prepared to give the meaning of life LOL. I do agree with Coltrane for the most part. When I lived alone in L.A. years ago, I always prayed before writing a song. I knew that touching people’s hearts, on any level, was a spiritual thing. I have always been a Christian. My faith is imperative to who I am. I sometimes write songs that express that clearly. I have been told that it’s proselytizing…. I disagree. If what I believe is a solace to me, why would I not share that. I never imply that people must believe what I do. I know I said that I keep the people in mind when I write, but my music is also about who I am as well.

I have learned through the years that music touches people like few things do in life. Sometimes one of my songs will touch someone in a way that I hadn’t thought of or even intended. That’s the spirit moving… I merely wrote down the words…. And the spirit, at times, takes it from there. I’ll give one example, in closing… I wrote a song a couple of years ago called, ”I’m Not Done”. It was just a fun song implying that I had more music in me. I had a businessman come up to me after a gig one night…. He said he had just retired and felt he had no value now (sometimes we give our jobs too much credence) he said that hearing that song gave him hope…. he said, “I’m not done, either”…. At that point his voice broke, and his eyes teared up…. He apologized and I said, “NO, never apologize for real emotion…. I never thought that song was the type of song that would move someone this way… You’ve been spoken to by someone greater than me… listen”. That moment made my whole night because that is what it’s truly about…. if I can do that to people with my music, I am a blessed and grateful man.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Always keep the listener in mind when you write and most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously. Know what you are and what you are not.

"I don’t even know what the first part of that question means LOL!! But, as far as MY music, I want it to touch people, make them think, maybe even help them in life. People sometimes ask me what I was thinking when I wrote a certain song. My standard answer is, “More importantly, what were YOU thinking when you heard it”? I just feel it’s more important how it affected them than why I wrote it." (Photo: Pat Liston)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I don’t even know what the first part of that question means LOL!! But, as far as MY music, I want it to touch people, make them think, maybe even help them in life. People sometimes ask me what I was thinking when I wrote a certain song. My standard answer is, “More importantly, what were YOU thinking when you heard it”? I just feel it’s more important how it affected them than why I wrote it.

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