Bio

 

 

Bogotá was an unknown.   

From the air the Colombian landscape is as emerald as the stones mined from the veins of the Andes running from the headwaters of the Amazon up to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.  The streets of the capital city are a sea of chaos pierced by strains of vendors calling out their wares to eight million Bogotanos.  Driving is akin to swimming in a school of fish. The masonry high rises are works of art, the people welcoming and genuine. But finding myself on extended stays in Colombia and hoping to discover and maybe participate in the music scene there, I had no idea what to expect except for the infectious Latin rhythms learned listening to everything from Sergio Mendes and Antonio Carlos Jobim to Santana and War. 

I met Toño Castillo through a fine jazz pianist named Oscar Acevedo, a Berkelee grad, who was playing the great American songbook at a local club.  Oscar invited me to his home and listened to some demos of songs I had written and immediately called his longtime friend Toño.  We hit it off and decided to record a couple of those tunes.  Then Toño brought in Alfredo de la Fe and some of Bogotá’s best musicians, all listed on the credits of this collection.  A couple of demos turned into a much bigger project. 

The result is “Coffee Colored Eyes,” a fusion of North and South American styles that is probably best described as Gringo Latino.  But the collaboration doesn’t end with the music.  Vico’s cover and his unique approach to creating visual art are as amazing as they are perceptive.  Toño's production, Andrés Anzola’s design, Carlos Silva’s mastering, the care and attention to detail only add to a growing appreciation for this remarkable place. 

                   Winslow Stillman, Bogotá 2012

 

 

Here are two takes on the same story...  

 

Stillman is a self-taught guitar player and musician.  He grew up in Virginia Beach, VA, USA in a modest home with three precocious older brothers and started playing a ukelele when he was nine. His mother raised them. Winslow was a good athlete and recieved a football scholarship to Duke University. During his freshman year he had a falling out with the head coach and left school to play music.  He went to Woodstock. New York City. Then he returned to Duke and worked with college bands, regained his scholarship and played a season of ACC football.  

While trying to teach himself how the music business works at a retail record chain and later an FM rock station, he went on the road with a nine-piece funk band, played cafe and church gigs, wrote songs. Later he moved to Nashville and produced some award-winning music. He returned to North Carolina after eight years and started three national/international radio shows.  NASCAR County and The Road were named by Billboard as among the top programs in syndication.  He sold two of them to Dick Clark's radio company in New York. Since then he's been playing guitar and singing jazz and blues.  

During one of what turned out to be a number of trips to Bogotá, Colombia, Winslow met some folks in music and decided to record a collection of his songs.  Alfredo de la Fe and a host of very talented musicians have come together to produce a CD entitled, "Coffee Colored Eyes."  Veteran producer, Toño Castillo, directs the effort from his studio there.

The first single is "Caribbean Feeling" written with hit Nashville songwriter, Steve Dean.  There's a range of material on the album and it all incorporates el Norte Americano con Los Sur Americanos.  A fusion that is aptly referred to as Gringo Latino. 

 

 A longer version...   

 

Winslow Stillman, "I grew up sort of a rural outlier to the beach scene in Virginia."

Three miles east was the oceanfront of the soon to explode Greater City of Virginia Beach as it swallowed Princess Anne county, a boca de la playa that would soon devour the pastures and farms dotting the Tidewater south to the sounds of North Carolina. To the west and north, especially at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay - shipping being a major conduit for local commerce -  the bucolica of the as yet unspoiled countryside of Princess Anne was shattered in the flight path of every iteration of Naval aviation that landed at NAS Oceana.  Each docking by a carrier member of the US Atlantic Fleet in nearby Newport News at Norfolk brought the howl of jet engines through the night.  Earlier prop-planes would foul reception of TV signals in a competition for over-the-air frequencies. Virginia Beach's billing as The World's Largest Resort City was nurtured in the arms of the Navy.  

Country and Western, as Country was called in that day, "...was on most radios in Oceana where I grew up." There were a handful of AMs that brought in everything from Patti Page to the Everly Brothers along with the twang of Hank Williams, or Dollie Parton's tear-soaked duets with Porter Wagoner.  The 'Opry broadcasts. Cash and Haggard and Johnny Tillotson, WCMS-AM...  Open air car rides during the heat of summer would blow music through the streets crossing Pacific and Atlantic Avenues and over to the ever expanding boardwalk looking out at the great, gray Atlantic. There the TopHat was the best bar on the Beach.  The Rhondels with Bill Deal working a B-3, both feet pumping and Amand Tharp fat backin' "May I." No liquor by the drink. Seaside Park, The Shadows, The Peppermint, and places at the oceanfront hopping to a different horn section.  Beach Music. 

"I resisted and fought against that musical inevitability with a rock and blues obsession." WRAP kept an emerging r&b groove as a funk alternative to the sockhop pop of WGH.  But radio defined it all. Most typically on late nights when nighttime air would bounce the AMs from Buffalo, Ft. Wayne, Chicago and Boston over clear channel frequencies into a bedside GE clock radio.  WCFL's British Countdown was the avante garde link to new music from the Yardbirds, Animals, Beatles, Shadows of Night, Zombies.

These were the transformative days of rock 'n roll.  Etta and Elvis to Joplin and Hendrix.  An old Stella acoustic in want of a couple of strings, a Gibson SG borrowed along with a vintage Vibrolux were the tools of a do it yourself music schooling. The Chambers with Sandy, Bobby and Lee, then Scott. Opening for the Byrds, playing sorority house parties at the north end of the beach. Learning licks off the radio. Earlier it had been Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary.  The Kingston Trio and Chad Mitchell, The Limelighters.  Now The TAMI Show and Don Cornelius with Dick Clark back to Lloyd Thaxton, to anything with drums.  "I worked an entire summer and spent it all on a new Rickenbacker six-string." Pauses.  "Yeah, paid full retail..."

The music business was in its infancy and ready to storm the youth culture of the 60's into Woodstock Nation. "There we were in a renovated school bus that was a pretty good place to crash and a better way to haul band equipment." FM-Stereo.  Rosco on WNEW.  Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart in Central Park opening for The Mothers of Invention.  "Mitch thinks he's Jesus and there will be no record deal with Vanguard Apostolic..." The Weight, Chest Fever.

Duke University and the unlikely pairing of a fomer scholarship athlete with a streetsmart, self-taught guitar defined a musical adolescent shredding a Les Paul, Jr. in a Dorian Mode rendition of "Mississippi Queen." Playing backwater clubs with The Organizations trying to fake Kool & The Gang at The Wagon Wheel in Oxford, NC during the peak of the African American identity movement behind Howard Lee for Senate.  Hit Attractions booking UNC and NC State fraternity gigs. Black and white and any ensemble that paid a few dollars, and some that didn't.

From Duke to unemployment to the Record Bar.  Retail records.  LA and Nashville industry shows. Boz Scaggs live doing "Silk Degrees."  AC/DC on their first US promotional tour.  The Stones in '63 and again in Greensboro with Keith Richards, Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck. Bach, Bartok, Holst, Brubeck, Jim Hall, Stephen Stills, Brian Ferry, "...the beautiful blonde fretless player on the Don Henley tour." Steely Dan. Metheny, Villa Lobos, Rodrigo, Castillo, de la Fe.  There was a stint with Bite, Chew & Spit playing spades through the night on the Chitlin' Circuit doing a set of Earth, Wind and Fire with 10,000 screaming at South Carolina State. WQDR,  Lee Abrams' album rock phenom. Cover of the Rolling Stone.  Tom Guild. Paul Holmes. Terrenoire, Hodskins, Simone and Searls, Doc.  Last Chance Rock 'n Roll Band.

Nashville brought some production awards, a few marketing successes, and time in the studio with very good people.  Surviving more by wits than savvy, and being lucky counting for as much as being somehow prepared, the hard enterprise of making a living making music yielded some good times.  On the road with Bo Thorpe and Jeannie with Quitman.  Brent mixes the first session then soars with the Judds.  "Floor Store" with Kathy Mattea, "Glee Cola" with Pam Tillis.  Burl "The Churl" Ives at the mall for Christmas.  AMC Theaters Feature Presentation.  Dobie Gray and Jimmy Hall doing station IDs and conveninence stores.  "Caribbean Feeling" with Steve Dean.  Not the best night at The Bluebird...

Then the whole enterprise-side takes a left turn when NASCAR Country comes about. "I had a knack for creating programs, espcially when I learned how to couple content with reach."  Point and Audience was still embryonic, but there was an innate marketing eye viewing the universe through a broadcaster's ear.

BNA, CHI, NYC, LA, The Road more or less traveled.  Tribune Entertainment.  John Cowan. Charlie Douglas, AASKDick Kimball, P.J. and Big Paul.  Dollar and WSOC.  USRN.  William Shockley and Tony Russell. Fruits of one's labor cashing out.  Elder Brother.  FUMC, The Prazors, Living Truth, and girl singers. Duo jazz at The Umstead.  Bigger bands.  Raleigh Jazz and The Moonlighters.

Mementos of a career in the music business.  

Bogotá, Colombia - 2012...     

So this is what it's like to be an artiste... stranger in a strange land more like it.  "No entiedo bien, pero estoy aprendiendo."  You want to succeed at this, so you have to drop all pretense of immediate inclusion.  "It was similar to the mix when I joined Bite, Chew & Spit.  I was the only Gringo then, too."

But the antitode of acceptance is found in competence and compassion.  So, within a context of Gringo Latino and with a collection of songs comes out these productions through "Coffee Colored Eyes."  The influence of Toño Castillo and his band of Gypsies.

This new sound goes back a long way.  

 

                                                                                               Ellie Stanton for After Hours Records

 

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