Author Archives: Tara OLoughlin

Musicians in crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has left no one person untouched in the U.S. Working from home, social distancing, having groceries delivered, wearing masks in public and a social life limited to zoom calls with your family and friends are all novel things that have suddenly become part of the everyday fabric of life. 

All of us have had to learn to cope with the reality of a potentially deadly virus ripping through the population, and the sacrifices that we need to make to limit the damage. But those who make their living off of live entertainment are being hit especially hard by the complete disruption of life as we know it. 

Coronavirus fall-out in the music industry

With public gatherings being shut down all over the world, musical appearances at weddings, concert tours, live shows and festivals have all been cancelled until further notice. The great majority of people employed in the music industry work on a freelance basis. From performers to stage hands to those who work behind the scenes in sales and marketing, there is no safety net. Unless the show goes on, nobody is getting paid. 

And this pandemic is happening at a time where we’re already seeing a steep decline in the recording industry, because the way people obtain and listen to music has changed. It wasn’t that long ago that a consumer had to buy a physical product in the form of a record, tape or CD, in order to gain possession of music from their favorite band. This type of transaction made it easier to tie the profits from the sale of music directly to the artist and recording studio from which it had been produced.

Fast forward to the 21st century and consumers are getting their music in single units from apps and streaming services. As a result, profits are progressively shifting away from record labels and recording artists, and a pandemic-induced, global economic downturn does not help. 

How musicians can adapt

If you’re a “gig musician” and have lost your regular job performing at live events, you’ll need to figure out new ways to incentivize yourself to play, build a fanbase and even replace some of the lost income. Think about releasing recordings or live-streaming on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitch or YouTube. Come up with ways to stay accountable and engage your fans, like announce a challenge: “seven songs for seven days of quarantine”. Just knowing they’re waiting to hear what you’ve put together might give you the push you need to start/keep writing.

Online performances are a good way to raise your profile on social media and help build a following as people share your music with others. You can also set up a payment method, such as Venmo, Zelle or PayPal, through which people can donate if they like what they hear. Even small amounts will add up. It takes creativity, but if you persevere, you can emerge from the lockdown with a bigger fanbase and perhaps even a new catalog of work. 

The Launch of a Band

As a teenager during the late 1950’s, Carlos Santana was playing with a variety of bands in clubs and bars along the Tijuana Strip where he was not only exposed to the local music, popular in northern Mexico, but also to the blues and blues guitarists like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.

In 1961, Santana moved to San Francisco to join his family who had moved the previous year.  Working for a time as a dishwasher and playing for change on the street, Santana continued to pursue his music, becoming more attracted to and influenced by the Bay Area’s growing rock scene.

A chance meeting between the guitarist and keyboardist, Gregg Rolie, and bass player, David Brown, led to the formation of the Santana Blues Band in 1966. The band began to attract a following among the local San Francisco club scene, combining rock, jazz, blues, and Afro-Cuban rhythms with a Latin sound.

In the late ‘60s San Francisco venues such as The Fillmore Ballroom and Winterland were showcasing such acts as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix Experience. Legendary rock promoter, Bill Graham, provided these venues for performers so that they could experiment and improvise with their music, where they could play long sets, and where their fans could listen and dance to this new wave of music.

Graham took an interest in Carlos Santana and the group which made its debut performance as an opening act at the Fillmore in 1968. The reaction by fans to the group’s music was so positive that Graham soon became their manager. Sensing that the band’s sound was unique and that they had the potential to break into the music scene, Graham was able to secure a slot for them to perform at the Woodstock Music Festival in August of 1969.

By this time, the band had experienced several changes in personnel, and in 1969, it consisted of Carlos Santana on lead guitar, Gregg Rolie on organ and keyboards, David Brown on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums and Michael Carabello and Jose Areas, both playing congas and percussion. In May of that year, the group had gone into the studio to record some of their music for a possible album to be released at a later date. 

Bill Graham really believed that performing in Woodstock would be a watershed moment for the group, now going by the name of Santana, and that they could become as big as some of the biggest names in rock, such as The Doors and Hendrix.  However, the group was skeptical, having played mostly West Coast performances to local fans.

When Santana took to the stage at Woodstock in the early afternoon of August 16th, most of the festival goers had never heard of them. But, by the end of their 45 minute set consisting of 8 songs and ending with “Soul Sacrifice” and the famous drum solo of Michael Shrieve, the “Santana sound” had left a lasting impression on the crowd that day.

And, just as Bill Graham has predicted, Santana shot up to the top of the popular music charts, within a few weeks of Woodstock and after their debut album, Santana, was released on August 30, 1969, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, remaining there for two years.

The rise of Latino music in the U.S.

During and right after the end of World War II, the U.S. experienced a historic wave of immigration from Latin America.  This included a record number of immigrants from Puerto Rico, with about 80% of the Puerto Rican population residing in New York City in large Spanish-speaking communities, the biggest being Spanish Harlem or “El Barrio”. If you lived in Harlem, you couldn’t help but become familiar with the sounds of the Latino beat and the dance rhythms that were a constant of El Barrio.

As the Latino population grew in New York City, so did its influence on the arts, especially the music of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Local clubs and ballrooms started hosting evenings that were specifically devoted to Latino bands and dance contests. And, in the early fifties, the Palladium Ballroom in Manhattan was the place to see some of the famous Latino bands of the day led by Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Frank “Machito” Gringo. 

The Latin influence began to find its way into rhythm and blues as well as the pop music of the day. Songwriters working in Manhattan became enthralled by the Latin beat and started to incorporate Latino-flavored rhythms into songs such as the Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment” and Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem”. 

Latin music continued to find its way into R & B, and it had a powerful influence on rock and roll in the 60’s.

Enter Carlos Santana

In the late ’60s in San Francisco, Bill Graham, owner of the famous Fillmore West, became acquainted with a young guitarist by the name of Carlos Santana. Carlos was already playing in some local bands, and had developed a love affair with the blues.

The band, Santana, first started out as a blues-rock band, but, over time, it changed as members came and went and different influences led the band in different musical directions. By 1969, the band was a cohesive unit with each member bringing something all their own to the band’s sound — Carlos on guitar, Michael Carabello on congas, Chapito Arias on timbales, Greg Rolle on the organ,  Michael Shreve on drums, and David Brown on bass. 

Over time, the band moved toward more of a Latin sound.  Bill Graham was very supportive of Santana, even suggesting that the band cover some Latin songs like “Evil Ways”. In August of 1969, Graham arranged for Santana to perform at Woodstock, and the rest, as they say, is rock and roll history.

After the movie “Woodstock” was released, Santana became an international success overnight. Their music, an Afro-Cuban blend, became an essential part of the American music scene, and for Latinos in the U.S., Carlos Santana was their first superstar.

Paying tribute to Santana

Carlos Santana would go on to shape the idea of “world music” through his experimental blending of styles as well as genres of music from a wide variety of ethnic sources — Latin, salsa, blues, rock, and Afro-Cuban along with elements of jazz, fusion, and world beat.

The great Santana tribute band, Savor, captures the Afro-Cuban sounds of Santana’s earlier music as well as the diverse sounds that found their way into later albums. Check out Savor and rock to the music that still excites today like it did 50 years ago.

Timeless Santana Collaborations

Santana is a rock band that will withstand the test of time. Instantly rising to the top of the rock charts since their breakout performance at Woodstock, Santana’s music is unmistakable and unforgettable. Blending a Latin flavor with classic rock, Santana went against the grain of most rock groups of that time and many nay-sayers didn’t think the unique sound would gain popularity. Santana went on to prove the critics wrong by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earning nine Grammy Awards.

Retaining its Latin roots throughout the decades, Santana has become an icon in the rock world. Unlike some rock groups that tend to resist changing times, Santana welcomed many changes, from band members to collaborating with other artists. In fact, some of their most memorable hits are collaborations.  Perfectly balancing their Latin rock sound with the other artists’ contributions, Santana’s collaborative numbers clearly reflect the band’s versatility and creativity. Then add Carlos Santana’s signature guitar tone into the mix and it is no wonder that Santana’s collaborations became instantly successful!

 Only gets better with time

Santana has released innumerable collaborations over the years. Some like “Smooth,” co-written by Rob Thomas, were instant hits. Other, less well-known numbers are still held dear by true Santana fans because collaborations are tests of a musician’s skills. Having worked with master artists of all styles from Ziggy Marley to Yo-Yo Ma, Santana time and time again displayed creative variety and mastery. Released in 2002, “The Game of Love” illustrates this point perfectly. Featuring Michelle Branch, the song wasn’t just successful but earned a Grammy Award for “Best Pop Collaborations with Vocals.”

Carlos Santana must take credit for most of Santana’s creative versatility when it comes to collaborations. More than just the band’s namesake, Carlos is Santana’s foundation, having been with the band from its beginning. Often called into the studio to work with other famous musicians, his iconic guitar tracks can be heard in numbers such as Michael Jackson’s “Whatever Happen” which was released in 2001. Carlos’ innovative skills and genius when it comes to music is perhaps what makes Santana’s collaborations not just inspiring but ageless. Having a legacy that now spans almost five decades, Santana will be an immortal fixture in the music world. While other groups fade with time, Santana will only be getting better.

 Celebrate Santana with Savor

 Santana is more than just a band; it is the embodiment of musical ingenuity and creativity. If you are a Santana fan, you don’t want just stereotypical rock, you want classic guitar with just enough Latin flair to make a unique, meaningful experience. A tribute band, Savor celebrates everything Santana from their iconic single hits to their unforgettable collaboration numbers. Dedicated to upholding Santana’s unique qualities and individual sound, Savor takes their listeners back to the golden age of rock and roll. If you love Santana, check out Savor!

Music that defines an era and musicians that transcend it

Ask a 6th grader and his grandfather if they’ve heard music by bands like The Beatles, Santana or Van Halen, and it’s likely that they’re both going to answer yes; despite the two-generation, 50-year age gap. Now ask that same duo about Duran-Duran and The Chainsmokers, and there will probably be some puzzled faces. Why do some artists appeal only to the era in which they gained popularity and others transcend time?

If you grew up in the 20th century, then you remember the barometer by which the public evaluated music. This is before the world became digital, music was all but created in a studio, and Disney pumped out child entertainers like Twinkies on an assembly line. An unknown artist could send in a cassette tape to a radio station, and if the DJ liked it, it got air time.

The path to fame has changed

Most of those artists wrote their own songs, played at least one instrument and relied on the “ear value” of their music to gain a following. Fast forward to 2019, and the barometer has changed dramatically. MTV, online media and music producers have irreparably altered the way a star is made. Artists can be created in a boardroom, and rolled out to the public like well-timed advertising campaigns.

To gain a following, they put on spectacular stage shows, make constant appearances on talk shows and gossip sites, and employee an entire staff of social media experts to keep them in the public consciousness. When they go into the studio to record, everything from instrumentation to vocal tones are tweaked and perfected, and live performances depend heavily on showmanship.

That’s not to say that prior to the digital age, artists didn’t exploit the power of the live performance. Elvis and the Beatles had showmanship coming out of their ears — cue the teenage girls fainting in the audience — but what differentiates them from some of today’s performers is that their music held up even after the furor had died down. Both of these artists changed the direction of music, rather than jumping on a bandwagon that was already in motion. Their success depended on the music they created appealing on a purely emotional level to the audience.

Santana: The embodiment of natural talent

Carlos Santana is another musician who exemplifies the concept that raw talent can supersede high level production and marketing. His career has spanned almost seven decades, and he’s managed to stay relevant to the listening public. Santana can’t be lumped into a category with dozens of similar bands, like Seattle grunge, techno or ‘80s hair bands. His music literally transcends labels and time, and at nearly 72 years old, he is still writing and performing.

To gain a reputation as one of the elite Santana tribute bands, like Savor in Southern California, hard work and dedication are the key to enthralling their followers. The band, lead by lead guitarist, Michael Caroff, rehearse tirelessly to perfect the percussion, vocals and melodic guitar riffs and solos that define Santana’s signature style. What sets them apart is that they also perform originals in the Latin Rock vein, written by Caroff. These pieces, while unique, blend seamlessly with the cover songs, and have the audience on their feet.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Santana are all bands that achieved fame by virtue of their artistic brilliance alone. They introduced the public to a new style of music that appealed to the listening audience at a deep, emotional level, one that has allowed it to stand the test of time.