5 Questions With Paul Shaffer

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The multi-talented Paul Shaffer, with The World’s Most Dangerous Band, will be performing at the Ryman Auditorium June 9th. Nashville is one of the stops for Shaffer’s first ever North American tour. The show features special guest’s vocalist Valerie Simpson (Ashford &Simpson) and legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, along with Paul’s former “Late Show” bandmates.

After performing on national TV five nights a week for more than three decades as David Letterman’s show musical director and sidekick, Paul really missed playing in front of an audience. What better reason to hit the road than to support his latest Sire Records album, Paul Shaffer & The World’s Most Dangerous Band (which features appearances by Bill Murray, Jenny Lewis, Shaggy, Darius Rucker, Dion and Valerie Simpson).

We all know Paul from his Letterman years but along the way, Shaffer racked up some more than impressive accolades. He’s a Grammy® winner and four-time Emmy® nominee. He spent the first five seasons of Saturday Night Live, and has also served as musical director for dozens of projects, including The Blues Brothers, Paul McCartney’s 9/11 “Concert for America”, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony. In addition to recording his own albums, he’s recorded with such diverse artists as Diana Ross, Yoko Ono, and Robert Plant.

Here, he answers Five Questions for the Tribune just days before his upcoming June 9th Ryman Auditorium appearance.

TRIBUNE: I understand that you are on your way to Nashville next week, as part of your first American tour. How is everything going with the tour? P. SHAFFER: It’s been fabulous, and totally new for me, especially at this point in my career. I finished 33 years with Letterman on the show, and before that I was a studio musician, and before that, I was with Saturday Night Live. So, for a long time I never really had to travel for work because everything was always in the studios in New York, whether video studio, or radio, or a recording studio, or television. But now, here I am for the first time doing that thing that they call being ‘on the road.’. Well, not technically the first time, because in 1980 when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd did the Blues Brothers, I toured with them. That was a different type of thing.”

TRIBUNE:  What can fans expect from your concert here on June 9th? P. SHAFFER: “Lots of great music of course. We also have the great Valerie Simpson headlining for us as our very special guest. She comes out in the middle and does a full set of all her hits, and she has so many classics in her repertoire that she wrote with her late husband, Nick Ashford, as Ashford & Simpson. Having her on the road is an incredible honor. That’s all I can say. It helps the whole thing and she’s so much fun to be with, and inspiring to travel with. She’s been doing it a long time. We also have Steve Cropper. He’s a legend in R&B music. He co-wrote the classic hits Midnight Hour and Dock of the Bay. So, I have these two songwriting legends on stage. I am so lucky.”

TRIBUNE:  After 33 years of doing the David Letterman Show, what do you miss the most about being on the show five nights a week? P. SHAFFER: “I’d say that I just miss The Letterman Show in general. David Letterman himself made the whole experience unforgettable and spontaneous. Every night was different. So, you never knew what was going to happen and it was real. To me, I always used to say it was the true reality show. Forget about the Kardashians, we were real. We had no story arcs written for us. If somebody was in a bad mood on the show, you could see it, you could tell it. That was a real thing and I would have to play sad music for that person.”

TRIBUNE: Do you and Dave often run into each other or hang out together? P. SHAFFER: “We do hang out together and very sweetly, he has expressed a desire for us to keep our friendship going. We talk all the time. We see each other every three or four weeks, where we will have a dinner or something. Dave came to see me perform when I played in Ridgefield, Connecticut, along with his wife. That was the last time I saw him. He was so responsive. It got kind of nostalgic for both of us. It kind of brought back memories for him because I do have the whole band from his show on this tour with me. I reunited them from the CD that we made and now this tour. We’re back to calling ourselves the World’s Most Dangerous Band, which is the name Dave originally gave us anyway.”

TRIBUNE: Have you had an opportunity to perform a lot in Nashville? P. SHAFFER:  I was in Nashville for two days last week, doing a little PR for the concert. I donated a costume, a keyboard, and an old synthesizer of mine to the Musician’s Hall of Fame. As I’m getting the word out and I get a call from the Grand Ole Opry asking me if I’d like to come by to do a couple of numbers?  Let me tell you, it was such a great honor to be invited. There I was hanging backstage with Charlie Daniels, the headliner that night, as well as T. G. Sheppard and Kelly Lang. I was in country music heaven. I was so proud to be there.  I played a little of my man, Floyd Cramer, who was my great country music piano influence. I played a little tribute to him. And I got to sit in with a band called Wounded Warriors. They are veterans who have been wounded in military battle and have a band. What a memorable night it was for me performing at the Grand Ole Opry!

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