His opportunities came early in life. His talent was there to meet them. Veteran musician Reggie McBride is a spellbinding bass player and record producer. He has performed and recorded with legends of the times and the story of this amazing and gifted man was launched when he was just a boy.
“I started playing music at the age of 7. I had private lessons on guitar and bass at the same time. I was in the high school orchestra playing percussion. Then I began to play on the road with the Dramatics and James Brown at the age of 15. By the time I was 17, I was in Stevie Wonder’s band recording and touring. From there I played with Rare Earth, Parliament Funkadelic , Rod Stewart, Keb Mo, Elton John and have made about 1500 recordings with various artists.”
Reggie McBride and Norman Lear
As outstanding as McBride’s professional career has been, equally remarkable is his character and the current project he finds himself engaged in. It is called Playing For Change and it was the brainchild of Mark Johnson.
“PFC (Playing For Change) started as one man’s dream and vision. Mark Johnson started by video taping a street musician by the name of Roger Riddley singing the song Stand By Me in the streets of Santa Monica, California. He then went around the world filming musicians in the streets playing the same song in the same key and tempo with different languages and put them all together simultaneously in a DVD documentary with other songs as well. This created a very impressive project called Playing for Change.”
An amazing video clip of Playing For Change/Stand By Me.
The miraculous communion of musicians around the globe involves everyone, according to McBride, connecting musicians and people from all walks of life. And it doesn’t end there.
"Playing For Change" has built two music schools in Africa so far and hopes to build more. With the PFC foundation, people are able to donate to their cause.”
“I got involved with playing for change through Mark. We met in 2004 while I was playing bass on a Keb Mo record. Mark was engineering for Keb in the studio.”
McBride was invited into the project as a co-producer of the first individual artist to be released by the PFC/Concord label, owned by Norman Lear. The artist is Grandpa Elliott, a musician who was saved from a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina, and, until he was discovered by Playing For Change, he played his music on the streets of New Orleans. The very first day of the recording session, McBride knew he was experiencing magic. The CD, Sugar Sweet, is a modern classic with a pure quality in an incredible sound that is truly unforgettable.
"I am currently co producing Grandpa Elliott’s record for the Playing for Change /Concord label, Grandpa is one of the main performers singing with Playing For Change. He is an icon of the street musicians in New Orleans. One of the big surprises was the very first track we recorded in New Orleans -it was magic. The two guitarists from Africa, Louis and Jason, started playing an African montuna while Grandpa started singing the song Aint Nothing You Can Do by Bobby Bland which is an American soul classic. I thought to myself as it was happening, we had better start recording it right away. The combination between us surprised me.”
Grandpa Elliot and friend
“Being involved with a project with this much love and warmth as bass player and co producer makes it all worthwhile and different than any other project I’ve ever been involved with. My hopes are to continue to work with and record more albums with PFC.”
As for heroes, McBride looks behind to those who stood in the doorway he later walked through as he may well be opening the way for Grandpa Elliott and so many others. “I don’t really have a definition of a hero. I think that people do great things and are looked up to because of it. Many people as well as great musicians such as Motown bass player James Jamerson have paved the way for bass players like myself to go forward and I’ll always remember him.”
(left to right) Mark Johnson, Jason Tamba, Mohammed Alidu, Greg Johnson, Mermans Kenkosenki, Louis Mhlanga
The music industry as we have known it is changing as those like Reggie McBride and Mark Johnson and the diverse organization of musicians under their wing continue to Play for Change. More and more artists are coupling their intentions with service to those in need throughout the world.
Watch this very moving video of Playing For Change/One Love.
“I see PFC making a very powerful message that says if different cultures can make music together we all can get along and have peace through music. The one thing I can say about this project - the music is innocent and there are no gimmicks. Everything was recorded as is. And I think that’s why people are attracted to it.”
A newborn innocence, because of this, may be returning to the music scene. A refreshing note to leave this story on, which, based on the continuing talents and efforts of producers, musicians, and human beings like Reggie McBride, is far from being over. These people are playing for real. Playing a tune of heroism that hopefully will never play out.