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Roger Steffens and The Wailers on Tour

Roger Steffens and The Wailers on Tour

Roger Steffens and The Wailers on Tour

By on - Photos by Lee Abel - 1 comment

Family Man and Roger Steffens shine light on the Survival album.

I caught up with the Survival tour in San Francisco, at the Independent, on February 7, 2012.  The sold out venue was bursting with people of all ages, excited to see the Wailers and to learn more about their beloved Bob Marley from Marley historian Roger Steffens. Below, Roger shares with us his thoughts on the historic partnership:

"Being on the road with the Wailers Band for nearly two months gave me a new appreciation for the back-breaking work of reggae's touring musicians and crews. For my own part, I spent many post-show nights sleeping on a floor-level bunk, under Keith Sterling and another person, in a coffin-like confinement, jouncing to our next destination. At 70, it was a challenge. Most of my shows went very well, but in the venues where they had booked one or two opening acts in addition to me and the Wailers, it became difficult to get my messages across due to a combination of bad sound systems and rude audiences, often drunk, who talked through my presentation. But a majority of good nights more than made up for that, especially in places like Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, San Francisco's Independent, Agoura Hills, California's Canyon Club and the Neptune Theater in Seattle, our final gig together, where the rapt attention of the audiences was a gift.

I was asked by Family Man to provide a background to the critically important "Survival" album which the group performed live - all tracks except for "Babylon System," which depended on Nyabinghi instruments that they were unable to carry with them. I researched the album for several weeks, and found especial help in Kwame Dawes' wonderful book, "Bob Marley, Lyrical Genius." Many people came up afterwards to tell me they would never listen to the album the same way again. It was particularly gratifying to see so many young people at the shows, most born after Bob passed in 1981, willing to carry his message on to their own generation, and hungry for my first-person tales of being with Bob on the original "Survival" tour. Family Man is the backbone of the band, of course, the only remaining Wailer in it. Last year he did 180 shows, and I don't know where he finds the strength (in his late 60s) to keep on night after night. His multi-talented 20 year old son, the keyboardist/bassist Aston Jr. is constantly at his side to assist him in a wide variety of ways. Fams often meets fans after the show, and willingly signs things and poses for pictures, which is a mark of his beneficent generosity. The tour also enabled me to meet up with many old and cherished friends whom I hadn't seen (in some cases) for as many as 44 years, like my Army room-mates from Saigon who came to the Chicago show. I felt honored to be invited to share the tour and hope we can do more of the same in years to come. However, I think I will limit my participation only to venues where people are seated, and only when there are no loud bands preceding me. Nearly everyone in the audiences admitted being drawn to reggae initially by Bob Marley, fulfilling Bob's own prophecies that the music (and he himself and his immortal works) would just get "bigger and bigger." Bob Lives!"


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Read comments (1)

Posted by Gerry McMahon on 03.03.2013
Nice one Roger... Sounds like an interesting trek, and you're sure wearing 70 well.

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