The return of live performances to Boulevard Music continues this weekend, as beloved singer/songwriter and renaissance man James Lee Stanley brings his finely crafted tunes to Culver City. We spoke to Stanley about what we can expect…
When did you start playing and performing?
I had my first recording contract at 16. LeGrand Records. The home of Gary US Bonds (New Orleans – “I said a hey hey hey hey yeah,” in case you forgot) and Jimmy Soul (“If You Wanna Be Happy”).
Describe your sound…
I play acoustic guitar but not in the conventional manner. I do guitar orchestrations of the songs I write. I sometimes spend years working on the lyrics. If Leonard Cohen can devote that kind of time to write, who am I to not at least try to do the same?
What are your career highlights so far?
The Opening Act – the Extraordinary Journey of James Lee Stanley DVD was recently released and won the People’s Choice Award at the London Lift Off film festival. [I have] 35 CDs released so far. My Freelance Human Being CD listed as one of the top 100 cds of all time by Fi Magazine. Three years as the opening act for Steven Wright as well as tours with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Robin Williams (see my website for the full list). I played the Universal Amphitheater with him. I did a solo concert at the Grammy Museum last year and sold the place out. That was fun! I scored all three of the CBS primetime Cathy TV specials, the first one of which won an Emmy. I created the celebrated All Wood and… series. All Wood and Stones, All Wood and Stones II, All Wood and Doors (with contributions by John Densmore and Robby Krieger not to mention Timothy B Schmit/ Eagles, Laurence Juber/Wings, Peter Tork/Monkees, among the many who contributed). The premise is that I take Classic Rock bands and completely reinvent and rearrange their songs as though they were created in Laurel Canyon in 1967. And I partnered up with another great songwriter as a duo. So far we have recorded All Wood and Stones I and II with John Batdorf; All Wood and Doors with Cliff Eberhardt; and All Wood and Led with Dan Navarro. I produced Peter Tork’s only solo CD as well as three duet CDs with him as Two Man Band. I wrote the Top Ten hit “Coming out of Hiding” and the hits “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and “Make It Tonight.” O wrote the musical Straight From the Heart starring Disco Diva Pamala Stanley.
Do you have any recorded music available?
My label, Beachwood Recordings, is a nationally distributed label. All 35 of my CDs are available at all reputable download/ streaming services, as well as at www.jamesleestanley.com, allwoodandstones.com, allwoodandled.com allwoodanddoors.com.
Have you performed at Boulevard before? Any memories?
Yes, many times and many shows there. I remember Peter Tork joining me on stage and thrilling the crowd. Also John Densmore of the Doors sitting in on some percussion when we did All Wood and Doors.
What can we expect from the set this time?
After two years of being in lock down you can expect a lot of joy and some significant increase in my chops. I just sat up there on that mountain in Bear Valley Springs and practiced. And I am a raconteur as well as a composer and performing musician so expect to laugh and cry and hopefully come out of the show enriched and optimistic …and with one of my CDs on your arm.
What else do you have coming up?
Having released the fourth recording in the All Wood and… series, namely All Wood and Led with Dan Navarro, I am now back in the studio recording all the songs I wrote during lockdown for a new solo CD and will be touring behind that in the coming year. The documentary is entered in a dozen more film festivals and is being shopped for broadcast on the streaming services. We also have three more All Wood and… projects in the pipeline. And this show at Boulevard Music is the start of my First Annual Farewell Tour. Health wise I am doing great after my bout with throat cancer. I did a concert two months later. And a year later my fall off the roof which resulted in nine broken ribs, two broken vertebrae, a concussion and spinal fusion surgery. Did a concert two weeks later. Okay I did it in a back brace sitting down, but I did it. At Stanford the nurses call me the miracle man.
Elsewhere this week
Culver City’s music venues have a full calendar of entertainment over the next four weeks. For the Cinema Bar, that includes the Hot Club of Los Angeles (every Monday), Matthew Fields (every Tuesday), Open Mic Night every Wednesday, Paul Chesney, Groovy Rednecks, Jetpack, the Dime Box Band, and more. For more information, go to thecinemabar.com.
Live music has also returned to the Culver Hotel and this week they will host Scotty Bramer Duo, Teddy Bang Trio, Dalton & Ellis, and more. Go to culverhotel.com for more info.