New CD PanAmerica here for the Holidays

The group’s new CD, entitled PanAmerica is ready for your listening pleasure. The package includes ten songs, all performed with a Latin flavor. The core group of musicians include Tom Aiken, piano, Steve Baird, bass,vocals, trombone, Paul McCandless, woodwinds, Ellie Siegel, mandolin, percussion, Will Siegel, acoustic guitar, and Les Boek, percussion. Other performers include Elena Cassanova, piano and Al Diiorio, drums and percussion.

The attractive and colorful album cover was designed by Steve Baird and makes a nice gift for the holiday season. The music was recorded at Mendocino College and mixed by Rodney Grisanti.

The CD is available at Dig Music in Ukiah or contact Will at Look for a CD release party sometime in 2015.

Art Scape – Will Siegel

By Karen Rifkin

The band just finished practicing at Will and Ellie Siegels home and, sitting around their kitchen table, Will brings up warm memories of days gone by and the many bands in which he played.

“You just keep playing and playing and playing; that’s how you get to be accomplished,” he says. “When I was 9, I asked my parents to buy me a guitar with lessons and they were more than willing to oblige. It was the time of the rock ‘n’ roll explosion and I was witnessing it on TV—Chuck Berry, Elvis. My first guitar had nylon strings; I wasn’t happy with it so I traded it for an acoustic arch top with F holes on the side.

“I didn’t stick with it. I seemed to start and stop and my parents wouldn’t continue with the lessons unless I practiced. This went on throughout my childhood and then I discovered that I could learn the songs just by listening. So I played chords along with the records and began to develop my ear training. I would write out my own lyrics and chords and track with records of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, The Byrds and Bob Dylan.

“I stopped playing in high school and in 1970 sold my electric guitar for gas money to take a cross country to the East Coast. It was the summer after Woodstock and there were rock festivals everywhere.

“I picked up a nylon stringed guitar along the way and we had camp fire music on the trip. My traveling buddy and I found all kinds of young people singing the same kinds of songs we were singing.”

He returned home and with an AA in liberal arts transferred to Sonoma State in 1971 where he met a lot of people who were into music. He was in the school of expressive arts and realizing it was the most fun he was having, he started taking himself more seriously as a musician.

He met his wife Ellie in 1973 and they played continually at their home in Cotati; she accompanied him on guitar, violin and drums. They began getting small club gigs as The Sonoma Mountain Makebelieve Band.

He began studying classical guitar with Tony Napoli who taught him more about the instrument, the structure, the scales and the chords. He was getting into Western Swing and elements of jazz. Napoli taught him about the fingerboard and music and practicing.

At the same time he met Kate Wolf. He began taking his dobro to different clubs to jam with people and he met her at the Painted House in Santa Rosa. Before too long she asked him to join her band. Soon after they recorded her first album, “Back Roads.”

The Siegels moved to Ukiah in 1976 where Will met Buffalo Bob Britton and began playing with him at gigs at the Redwood Valley Grange. Then he formed his own band, Late Nite Radio with Ellie on the fiddle. This lasted until 1981.

Kevin Axt, today a Grammy award-winning performer, was their first bass player and was followed by Bud Chase who introduced Siegel to Barbara Curtis. He soon became a member of her band playing electric guitar. He recorded her first album with her in 1984, “Long Overdue.”

He played with Curtis for over 20 years and learned to play jazz, develop his repertoire. When Chase left the band, Steve Baird joined as their acoustic bass player; the two of them developed a strong friendship that continues to this day.

The ‘90s saw the birth of Willie and the Nighthawks. Their favorite place to play was the Hopland Brewery. “It was me with Steve on bass, Paul Kemp, John Rizzo and Marilyn DeFrange. It was a fun band; we had some great times,” he says. “We played rock ‘n’ roll, dance music and originals that were spearheaded by DeFrange; she also got me into recording. We informally disbanded in 2000.”

“Then I did a series of concerts at the playhouse encapsulating the many styles of music that I like to play. I hired numerous musicians and built three sets of music: acoustic, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll. Then I formed Rags to Rhythm featuring Paula Samonte with Steve on bass.

This band transformed into Will Siegel and Friends, the present day incarnation, that includes Baird, Ellie, Les Boek, Tom Aiken, Tom Clarkson and Michael Mills. They have found a welcome home at the Ukiah Senior Center and Blue Wing in Upper Lake where they play (what else?) rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz, classical country and a dash of Latin—he credits Elena Casanova for expanding his horizons in this last genre.

“Music takes me away from troubles that people experience in life; it takes us away from them momentarily. It helps me concentrate and is gift of sharing and communication,” says Siegel.

Ellie seconds this. “It helps me concentrate, expands my memory and keeps me active; it is a joy.”

He continues, “Living in a small town has been very kind to us. It has given us an experience that we may not have gotten in a larger town. We have met and played with so many world class musicians and are very grateful for having had that experience.”

“There are two very special people that I would like to mention—Russ Johnson and Dolores Carrick. In 1980 they gave me a job teaching guitar and Ellie a job washing the band instruments. Russ taught me about chord voicings and the guitar’s place in the orchestra and taught Ellie the saxophone and a variety of other horns They taught us to teach.

Siegel presently works privately with students and has two thriving guitar classes at Mendocino College; he also continues to record at his home.

Looking forward to hearing your new CD, “Don’t Cha Wanna Dance”, a thank you from dig! music

Will, thanks again for the amazing show last month here at dig! music with Les Boek, Steve Baird, and Paul McCandless, and of course Ellie, and yourself!  People are still talking about the incredible show and what a fine hour of community spirit and music it was. Thanks again, dig! music Mike and the dig! music crew

KOZT is Playing our Tunes

As we’ve come to expect from Siegel & Friends, it’s another good one…excellent musicianship, great tunes and very much made in Mendocino…look (listen) for more spins as we go along…and, as I emailed Les earlier, always thanks for great new music.


Tom Yates
The Coast

The Story behind “Follow the River”

Follow the RiverBy Jenkins, Mercer, and Siegel

When you come down to the crossroads

                                          And you don’t know which way to go

Listen to the words in your heart,

Listen to the song of your soul ,

Follow the River,Follow the River,Follow the River, and the River will take you home.

Lay down your burden of anger,

Give up your greed and scorn,

                                      Give others the gift you’ve been given

And you’ll reap what you have sown


                                             Reach out with a joyful noise                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Lift up your voice in our song                                                                                           Treat others as you would be treated,

And you’ll never walk that dark road alone

Follow the River, Follow the River, Follow the River and the river will take you home.
Guarenteed,to take you home

The Story: A few years ago I was teaching night GED classes at the Farmington Correctional Center. I had a fairly large class, about seventeen students at the time. Mr. Jenkins was one of my students. He was a young black man about twenty-six years old, convicted of aggravated assault. He had recently become a born again Christian. He had a number of problems with his studies. He could perform any task after explanation, but had long term memory problems. His short term memory seemed to be all right, but after a few days he would begin to loose what he hadstudied. This was a real problem given the program and the final test that each student must eventually take. I worked with him to develop ways to increase and assist his long term memory. One of these was rhyme, which has been used since the beginning of written language tomaintain memory; rhyme and rhythm begin before Homer. We usedthese tools in every part of his studies, “9 times 9, LET’S HAVE SOMEFUN, is 81″. We made rhymes for the entire multiplication table, and Mr. Jenkins made progress. It was slow but he was retaining what he was studying through the use of our tools and constant review. I wrote “Follow the River” during his study of poetry. I wanted him to help me in the writing of it, but when I gave him each verse he would not make any changes to it. He said the words were too good to change. He only made one addition to entire poem, the “Guarantee” at the end. I gave him a copy of the words, and he took them to a musician that he knew from church. The musician took it to others and it became a song that was performed at their church services. I never had the opportunity to hear it preformed because I could not attend their services. He and some of the other students did sing it for me in class.  At one point Mr. Jenkins got into a fight while he was at his day job in the mess hall and was put into solitary confinement for about a week. When he returned to class I had to move him from where he had been sitting to a new location. I had new students, and one of the individuals he had gotten into trouble with in the mess hall was to close too his old location. His new seat was directly under a large florescent light in front of my desk. It was then that I noticed a line on his forehead directly over his left eye. It puzzled me and I began to suspect something. I ask him about it, and at first he was reluctant to tell me anything. I knew that he had been raised by his grandmother. He had mentioned this to me in our conversations. Finally, after my continued questioning, he told me that when he was three years old his mother had stabbed him in the head with a pair of scissors. At break time that evening I put in a request for all his records, including his medical records. There was no mention of this injury in his records, particularly his medical records. I searched further and came up with nothing from the time he had been arrested. It all fit, his symptoms: memory loss and anger control, the nature and location of the wound. I put together a rather large document detailing all this information and sent it to his case worker. The long term result was Mr. Jenkins transfer from the standard prison facility to the special psychiatric facility located within Farmington Correctional, where he could receive treatment for his disability. He continued to come to GED classes, insisting that I remain his instructor. Of course the powers that be, the system, did

not like my interference especially in pointing out their mistake.



When the cutbacks in funding for the GED and Vocational programs occurred

in the Missouri prison system I was one of the first to be let go. About eight months after I left the program I received a special invitation to the graduation of students who had taken and passed the GED exam. I went wishing to see which of my students had obtained a High School education. It was a very strange experience. The families of inmates and the teaching staff comprised most of the audience. After the cap and gown, the inmates were allowed to shake hands with everyone. Mr. Jenkins was the first to shake my hand. He smiled at me and said, “Follow the river, Mr. Mercer, follow the river.” My eyes started to get a little watery, and that was not the end of it. Many students shook my hand, some from my class, some that I did not even know. Most of them said the same thing, “Follow the river.”          Russ Mercer

Bismark, Missouri

New CD has Arrived

Our new CD is now available. The title track, “Don’tcha Wanna Dance” has already received air play on KOZT’s Local Licks. Check it out at Dig Music in Ukiah.

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