Dave Mason | Born to Play Guitar

Chris Jenner

SHOW RESCHEDULED updated 092419
The Dave Mason show has been rescheduled to Nov. 2.

“I sell memories,” says venerated classic-rock guitarist Dave Mason. “Hopefully there are enough young kids out there who say, ‘Hey, that’s really good. What is that?’ Something I did 40 years ago.”

Sept. 20 | 8 p.m.
MontBleu Resort Casino | Stateline, Nev.

Has it been that long since Mason penned the 1968 Traffic hit “Feelin’ Alright?” while mending a broken heart on the Greek Island of Hydra.

“When I was young, … it seemed like I could do that. I was not going to work a nine to five, that was for sure. It was pretty much do music or a life of crime.”

— Dave Mason

“It was about a woman,” he says. “I just went to get away from everything.”

The song has since been recorded by more than 60 artists, most famously by Joe Cocker.

Mason left Traffic a short time later due to creative differences within a band that may have been slightly jealous of his knack for writing all their hits. He was a sought-after session musician who recorded guitar parts on several legendary classic-rock albums including the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Electric Ladyland,” the Rolling Stones’ “Beggars Banquet,” George Harrison’s seminal solo LP “All Things Must Pass” and Graham Nash’s precious “Songs for Beginners.”

Mason grew up in the West Midlands city of Worcester, England, about 25 miles southwest of the booming cultural metropolis of Birmingham where he and childhood friend Jim Capaldi drifted into a thriving early 1960s music scene. The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues and Electric Light Orchestra were already laying the groundwork for heavy-rock icons Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin to follow.

Mason got his first guitar when he was 15 after being inspired by the likes of American bluesmen Elmore James, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy.

“When I was young, I saw it, looked at it and I liked it,” he says. “It seemed like I could do that. I was not going to work a nine to five, that was for sure. It was pretty much do music or a life of crime.”

Before he met Steve Winwood and Chris Wood to form Traffic, Mason played in groups such as The Jaguars and The Hellions.

“We were just four guys hanging out at clubs wherever we could,” he says. “We were at a matinee cinema that opened up to the main high street of Worcester. We said, ‘Look at those cars. That’s a lot of traffic.’ And we wanted a name without ‘the’ in it.”

When he’s not on tour, Mason lives in Reno, Nev., and Hawaii where he works on arrangements of new covers and beloved classics including “We Just Disagree,” “Only You and I Know” and “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.”

“At this age, I’m mostly recuperating,” says Mason, who turned 73 this year.

The newest incorporation into the band’s catalogue is Cream anthem “Badge,” written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison four decades ago.

“I’ve been dying to play that riff,” he says. “Essentially I’m a guitar player. Singing was always just something you had to do to get on stage.”

Although his voice has seasoned nicely over the years since writing and recording his most treasured songs, as ever, Mason simply loves to play the guitar.

“My audience has sort of grown up with me,” he says. “I’m a working musician. Frankly, I’m probably better now than I ever was. I don’t play golf and I don’t do other things. I like to play guitar. I like the experience of being with the other guys making live music. It’s what I do. I’m good at it. It’s live. It’s now. Everything is in the present.”

What’s the point of writing and recording 21st Century material anyway if no one is going to listen to it?

“For people who are just songwriters, it’s not worth it creatively because nobody knows it’s out there,” says Mason. “Terrestrial radio is still powerful, but the formats aren’t there. There’s nobody home. They play the same shit over and over. It’s really kind of weird. They are defeating their own purpose.”

Mason remembers a time when well-known disc jockeys spread new and exciting music to the American public.

“They’d probably be attracting more younger listeners that way,” he says. “They used to turn you onto things you didn’t know about. I don’t spend time making new music because there’s nowhere to promote it. Nowadays everybody seems to be wailing for free this and free that while 5,000 plays on Spotify is equal to the price of one T-shirt.” | montbleuresort.com