NDHP Interview With Carol Hunter

November, 2001

Carol has graciously answered many of the questions sent in by our readers,  thanks Carol!

 

 

Carol,   I'd like to ask if you recall what "obscure" songs Neil might have performed in concert

during your time with him (even if just once) Like, did he ever do "Holiday

Inn Blues" or Two-Bit Manchild, or things of this nature, that you can recall.

 A: I sort of recall doing "Two-Bit Manchild" as an opening song when we first started, and I've heard Holiday Inn Blues, but never played it on stage.

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  Question:     You played with Neil when he was more rock than pop.  Why do

you think mellow rock artists like Paul Simon and James Taylor have been

inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Mr. Diamond is overlooked

every year for the past ten years?

 

A:  I have no idea how people get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or why anybody is left out (except for obvious reasons, of course).  Paul Simon and James Taylor are both tremendous artists and songwriters and richly deserve to be included, but so is Neil.  That he's been overlooked is a total mystery to me, but so are Rock 'n Roll hall of Fame criteria...

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Hi Carol,

I'm from Germany, 45 years old and an Neil Diamond fan since 30 years . I've

seen Neil's Shows in the Munich Olympia Hall 1977, 1984, 1989 and 1999.

Unfortunately I didn't see the show in 1971, when you were a member of

Neil's band. But I enjoy the Album Gold!

 

Here my questions:

 

How did you join to Neil's band?

A:    Funny story.  I came to L.A. to play on and arrange an album for Kay Beckett, a great singer from the original cast of "Hair".  Sadly, the project was cancelled but the producer (who worked for Joe Sutton, Neil's manager at the time) knew Neil Diamond was looking for a guitar player for his next tour.  He put us together, and the rest is history.

 

Why did you stop your work with Neil?

A:    In the Spring of '71, Neil Diamond had changed the configuration of his touring band.  The new band was a fine, well-disciplined group of musicians, most of whom still tour with him, but I missed the old gang and was tired of the road.   Besides, there were other projects to work on, including my own album.  I played and/or sang on Neil's next few albums in Los Angeles, too.

 

Do you have contact to Neil now?

A:    I haven't seen Neil since a nice backstage meeting before his concert at the Anaheim Pond a few years ago, but still consider him a dear friend.

 

Are you still working as an musician, for which projects, with whom do you

work together?

A:      Interestingly enough, my last project was with Randy Sterling (bass player with Neil's band when I worked for him) just a few weeks ago, for a country artist he's producing.   We'll be doing a song of mine, "Skywriter", in a few weeks, for a compilation CD celebrating the first 100 years of airplane flight.

 

How closely were you involved with Neil's recording sessions?

A:  While we were on the road with Neil, Randy and I both did some recording, and I did some 12-string and background vocals for him on the next couple of albums.

                      

Why did you leave the band?

A:  More than anything else, I was anxious to do my own solo album and to produce and arrange some other artists.

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First, about your first meeting with Neil, what was the situation, and

what was your first impression of Neil, the man, when you met him?

Secondly (it's a similar kind of question) what about the last time you saw

Neil? What was the situation, and what kind of impressions did you take away

with you?

 

A:  I first met Neil formally (had seen but not talked to him at one or two events in New York, where we're both from) at a rehearsal studio in Hollywood

In September, 1969, when he was putting a touring band together.  I played an instrumental version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and a few other things, maybe sang a song (this WAS a long, long time ago), and he invited me to join the band.

 

Lastly, a musical question: the song "Lordy". What are your memories of the

arranging, rehearsing and performance of that song? (it's such a great track, and your guitar playing is a big factor in how cool that song sounds!)

 

A:  Thanks.  As I recall, "Lordy" came about during band rehearsals, and like on a lot of other songs, Randy and I both improvised our parts until they kind of coalesced and were solid, which Neil appreciated, since he always liked to have a reliable foundation to perform on.

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What was it like to work for Neil Diamond in those early days - was he a

perfectionist, was he a crackup, did he treat his band members as equals?

 

A:  Neil was and is a lovely man.  He was definitely the boss, which makes perfect sense since he was the one who drew those vast audiences, but we were all friends.  If what you're asking is whether he ever pulled rank, the answer is an emphatic NO.

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On the "Gold" album, that was a unique guitar sound especially on "Lordy".

Did you play electric or acoustic on that album and what did Neil play?

 

A:  When we were on the road, the two guitars I played were both Fenders.  On "Lordy", I used the solid body 12-string, which had been customized for me by Dan Armstrong.

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What was it like being a female performer in what still seems to be a male-dominated field.  I know that most others will want to ask her questions about

Neil, but the one about being a woman in an otherwise all male band is the one that I thought of first.  I know that Linda Press is in a similar situation, but Linda's role is as a singer, one in which women are more commonly found.

 

A:  From the time I was a teenager playing the little clubs in Greenwich Village in New York, I wanted to be part of a musical ensemble rather than a solo artist, and I suppose I was something of a bargain to the artists I worked with, since they got something of a two-for-one with me; guitar player plus background singer.  Sometimes it was a little awkward being the only girl in the group, and sometimes the locals mistook this overly dressed-up girl with a lot of makeup hanging around backstage for something other than one of the musicians, which was occasionally hilarious.

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In the book, "Solitary Star", it was mentioned that you played the 12 string guitar on the studio session for "Cracklin Rosie". It said that you and  the band would actually STOP and change keys and start again. What an interesting way to record a song!   Are there any more examples of your guitar playing on Neil's STUDIO albums?

 

A:  I honestly don't remember playing guitar on "Cracklin' Rosie".  Neil wrote and played the guitar intro himself, though one of us might have doubled it to make the sound richer.  I did play on "I Am, I Said", "Stones", and a few other songs later in the 70's.

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My mother saw Neil in Monroe, LA in 1969 and was blown away by the woman

guitar player. She said many were surprised to see a woman playing guitar for such a big name artist. How did Neil decide on you and what were many people's reaction to you in your role? 

 A:  A: That's SO nice! There were, actually, quite a few times I was questioned by cautious security people for being backstage "messing around" with the guys' instruments. It wasn't always easy to explain that some of those instruments were really mine and that it was okay for me to be checking the tuning on account of that was my job. There also was, on occasion, the local deejay or promoter who saw this dressed-up girl with too much eye makeup (stage makeup, you know, IS a little over the top) hanging around and decided I was trying to pick up the star or one of his band mates. I was even promised an introduction to Neil and maybe an invitation to a party after the show where all the "stars" would be. I always said yes, even though there usually wasn't a party -- we were tired and hungry and there was usually an early call to get to the airport on time. But I never told them anything more than, "That would be nice. I'll meet you right here after the show." Most times I never saw them again; when I did (and this happened more than once), they apologized. It was almost like I was a real human being.

 

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