Alan White

by | May 30, 2022 | 22 comments

I first met Alan in person about 25 years ago. But I first saw him in concert 44 years ago.

I had been a Yes fan since high school. I saw them in the round on September 3rd or 4th of 1978 in New Haven Coliseum in Connecticut. Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White & Rick Wakeman.

I did not pull that out of my feeble brain. I can’t remember my kids phone numbers, let alone a show I saw when I was 22. But Yes fans are so passionate that there’s actually a website you can look up every show they’ve played for the last half a century plus.

And there’s also a photography page when I searched for that show loaded with pictures from that venue. That’s a testament to the power of this band. And it blew my mind to see those photos now. There weren’t a lot of smartphones taking shots in 78.

If you get Yes, it’s such a higher level of the art, that it’s almost a religion. And the deeper you go, the more you get it.

Now I’m not trying to pass myself off as a musicologist, and I can’t even name all of the album cuts I love. I just put the bands playlist on shuffle a lot. When I’m hiking. Or driving. And it lifts my spirit in a way no other act can. And I don’t skip songs.

Back in 1997 my radio producer cohost Joe Bryant surprised me one day by telling me that Alan White was his neighbor. And they both hung out at the same neighborhood watering hole, The Mustard Seed in Renton. I remember thinking I’d love to meet him, but I don’t like to bug artists and celebrities. They need their space, and I never know what to say as a fan that doesn’t sound cliche anyways. Unless I’m interviewing them on the radio. But that’s a working professional relationship.

Around that time, we were writing and recording a new Christmas parody album. I had found a wonderful way to express my love of recording and great musicians by writing Twisted Tunes and making them sound as close to the original as possible. This would be our 3rd album on Atlantic Records.

I guess over a beer or two, Joe had mentioned that we were working on the album. Alan said, “Do you think Bob would let me play on one of his parody songs?” Joe, in his typical down home understated fashion, said “We’ll, I don’t know, I’ll ask him”.

I don’t know I’ll ask him???? How about YES!

Now I don’t get nervous meeting celebrities as a radio host, because I know they want to be there, and we have a gig to do together. But in private life at home it’s a different story. I’m actually socially awkward, pretty insecure. I was so excited that Alan was coming over to record. I wanted to make sure he had a good time.

We were doing a parody of Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze”, called “Holidaze”. Think “‘S’cuze me, I’ve got gifts to Buy”, and you’ve got the gist of it. Randy Hansen played guitar. Spike O’Neill and Michael Rain split vocal duties. I wish I could remember who played bass.

We exchange pleasantries, Alan sets up his kit, he asks me if I want him to play it true to the way Mitch Mitchell played. I said yes, that would be great. Of course Alan knew Mitch, and I even got the feeling he’d done some listening to get ready for recording.

When the tape rolled for take one, our collective jaws dropped. Power. Authenticity. Groove. The sound coming from those drums was already perfect. There had been no rehearsal.

And selfish me was a little disappointed. All that anticipation, and in one three minute and ten second take we were done. Oh no! I want to hear Alan play more. So I said something about let’s get another take as a safety. But we didn’t need it.

The Rock Star I had watched in the round with Yes in ’78 had just set up his kit in my basement and belted out a Twisted Christmas tune. Pinch me. I don’t do drugs anymore, but I was high.

And that would be the beginning of a friendship lasting through many years, culminating in a trip to New York in 2017 to celebrate his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I would like to say I was lucky to be his friend. But it wasn’t luck. Alan and his amazing wife Gigi were both intentionally kind to everyone they met. Always. He was so generous with his time and talent that there are thousands of stories like mine. I know, I’ve been reading them for days. While listening to Yes albums.

22 Comments

  1. Kevin Murphy

    YES, they are intentionally kind, sweet people. I appreciated so much Gigi introducing me to Alan while were organizing the 40th anniversary rooftop concert. Gigi thought Alan would want to participate and he did, playing drums with Creme Tangerine celebrating a mutual love and appreciation of the Beatles last concert. CT drummer, Jeff Lockhart, didn’t mind at all stepping aside for a few songs as Alan authentically led the band through the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band classics portion of the show…Alan was that kind of rock star and friend. Authentic, professional and a wonderful guy. He wanted to participate and it showed.

    Reply
  2. Todd Southwick

    Hi Bob,
     
    Thank you so much for everything you give, to us all. Thank you for having me on The Bob Spike and Joe KZOK morning show “Does anyone body do Cat Stevens?”
    It was great to receive the call from Arik Korrman!
     
    I have lived a few miles from Issaquah in Sammamish for 22 years. It has been great playing with so many musicians here annually during Issaquah Salmon Days.
     
    Where Issaquah has its Concerts OnThe Green every summer. https://issaquahwa.gov/777/Concerts-on-the-Green.
     
    .
    Issaquah also has The Summer BLUES Fest at the old Shell Station on Front Street and The Washington State Blues Society brings the very best! https://www.issaquahreporter.com/news/gas-station-blues-concert-series-returns-for-the-summer/
     

    Alan We Love YOU.
    We have been fortunate to have Alan White in Issaquah, over these past few years!
     
    Thank you, Bob Rivers!
     
    Todd Southwick
     

    Reply
  3. Sylvia Angelilli

    Great musician. Saw him play with Yes. Got all your CDs, and then I downloaded them. Before I retired, I used to play them for my staff, young ones, and would just crack up. We’d end up playing a bunch of those songs over speakers on our warehouses. Great fun! Nice to hear Spike on the radio again. Get better, and keep sharing your progress. Damn I miss you three on the radio!

    Reply
  4. Ron (Chewy) Chifulio

    I miss him. He was everything you said about him and more. I will miss having a Stella with Alan at the mustard seed. I am glad to hear you are doing better (no more leaks I hope).

    Reply
  5. David Ayers

    Great remembrance of an incredibly talented and nice man. I got to meet Alan after a “Butternut” show. One of my favorite rock memories will always be watching the live version of “Close To The Edge” 73 and at one of the breaks in the song, when the band comes back in, Alan is beaming with pure joy. I’ll never forget that look on his face. My understanding is that was his first tour with the band? Magical and joyful. Prayers for your continued healing Bob 🙏

    Reply
  6. BetaSteve

    Another great legend, now just memories. Don’t get any damn ideas Bob, you’re needed here for a lot longer. Incidentally, the original Mustard Seed tavern was in Newport Hills, Bellevue, not Renton.

    Reply
  7. Jeff

    Beautiful tribute Bob I was a backstage pass winner way back in the day. Alan was just the consumate gentleman may he rest in peace…

    Reply
  8. Steve York

    Yes, Alan was and remains the best, 14RIVZ. Seen him on his first tour with Yes and many times after. We hung out a time or two. Keep well, old timer…

    Reply
  9. Burt Arthur

    Pretty amazing stuff we get to have in our lives aye Bob! Wishing you well!

    Reply
  10. Patrick Smith

    Great story Bob, thanks for sharing. Really hope you are getting better, your blogs give us so much confidence in you, I truly hope it is doing the same for you.

    Reply
  11. Bill Smith

    Thanks Bob, it has been a pleasure witnessing a portion of your career, the Seattle part. Wishing you and your family the best in your recovering.

    Reply
  12. Robert Goodell

    Great story and I know when you went to see him at Hampton Beach it was special.

    Reply
  13. Jerry

    Well said Bob.

    Reply
  14. Douglas C Larsen

    Amazing. Both of you. Your entire posse for that matter. I missed the end of Seattle radio, as I just returned from 13 years in SE Asia, but your show was the best.

    Reply
  15. Jim Higgins

    Thanks for sharing Bob!

    Reply
    • Jim Higgins

      I also saw them in the round for the 90215 tour, amazing!!

      Reply
  16. Mary

    Thanks for sharing 🥰What fun!

    Reply
  17. Mary K McBride

    A fitting tribute from one good man to another. Thanks, Bob, for sharing some of your very special memories of the legendary Alan White.

    Reply
  18. Brian Cornfield

    Wonderful story. I love the way you storytell and I always will. So sorry that we all, and you lost a special person. May he Rest In Peace.

    Reply
  19. Mary Kay

    I love it when you share your stories! He was truly a good man and a great musician.
    And please Bob heal and be well! Thank you!

    Reply
  20. Ken Thomas

    Sometimes the best friendships come by accident. Sorry for the loss of your friend Bob. Although I’m not a true YES fan, I did appreciate their music.

    Reply
  21. Joe Moss

    As usual Bob – very eloquently written and evocative. A great tribute to Alan. Also a bug Yes fan I discovered his personality as a sweet down to earth guy during his many appearances in your show. Thanks for remembering him so sweetly.

    Reply

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