School Time Author Q&A Series: Kenny Weissberg

Hello Beautiful People,

Kenny Weissberg has been a radio disc jockey, music critic, rock ’n’ roll singer, bandleader, and concert promoter. He has now added “author” to the mix. In his memoir, Off My Rocker, Kenny presents a rollicking backstage look at the joys and painful realities of a life devoted to music. Surrounded by an all-star cast, he shares uncensored stories about James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Elvis Costello, and countless other showbiz legends. Equal parts love story and spicy confessional; this book will take you on an unforgettable ride through six decades of pop culture.

For further information about Off My Rocker, please visit www.kennyweissberg.com, and in the meantime, read on for Kenny’s exclusive Q&A with The Write Teacher(s), as I’m so pleased to announce Kenny as the featured author this month!

Ladies & Gents, meet Kenny Weissberg…

MM: First things first, what made you want to write a memoir?
 
KW: I’ve been keeping journals, DayMinders, stacks of radio setlists, all the newspaper articles I’ve written and boxes of correspondence for the past 45 years.  I always intended to compile my life’s adventures into a memoir, but didn’t get around to it until my mother was dying in 2005.  She was perfectly lucid at the end of her life and her last words to me were “So when are you going to write your book?”  She went into a coma that night and died three days later.  That was the impetus I needed.
 
MM: Of all the stories that you share in your book, is there one memory in particular that is the strongest?
 
KW: Being a music business lifer, there are memorable interactions with great musicians and showbiz types like Aretha Franklin, Bill Murray, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, etc.  But the most important moments for me involve accidents, serendipity, and blatant lying that led me to a pivotal Otis Redding concert in 1967, going to Woodstock in 1969, getting my first radio gig in 1971 and begging for a place to live on the air in 1972.  My new next door neighbor became my wife and we’re still together 42 years later.  Irony, connectivity, and ping-pong transitions led me to some perilous crossroads where I had to make snap decisions.  I’m lucky to still be alive.
 
MM: What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading this memoir? 
 
KW: Go with your gut, follow your heart, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, don’t live your life based on others’ expectations, avoid compromise whenever possible, and surround yourself with music.
 
MM: Can you describe to our readers what your writing process was like?
 
KW: Very haphazard and undisciplined.  When I was a journalist, I never handed in a story until five minutes before the deadline.  As a first time author writing for myself only, I had wondrous peaks and arid valleys.  During the nearly eight years it took me to write this book, I had prolific periods where the writing came spurting out of me like a geyser and dry spells that lasted for years.  I gave up a half dozen times and told my family and closest friends that “the book is dead.”  I plan on integrating more structure and discipline into my process if I decide to write a second book.
 
MM:  Just for fun, if I were to walk into your home, what books are permanently on your bookshelf?
 
KW:  Among the hundreds of books that I’ll never throw away are:
 
Chronicles, Volume One by Bob Dylan
The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe
Music Of Chance by Paul Auster
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Top Pop Singles 1955-2010 by Joel Whitburn
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
 
MM: Just for fun, what sound do you love, and what sound do you hate?
 
KW: I love the sound of six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars and cringe every time I hear a smooth-jazz soprano saxophone.
 
MM: Just for fun, if you were stranded on a desert island, what movies and television shows would you want readily available to you?
 
KW: I’m a movie and TV junkie so that’s a very difficult question.  I’m bound to leave out some essential needs, but here’s a random, rambling list that intersperses movies and TV:
 
Breaking Bad, Field Of Dreams, The Sopranos, Fargo, The Fugitive (TV), The Twilight Zone (TV), Easy Rider, Inside Llewyn Davis, Almost Famous . . . c’mon Megan, this question may be just for fun, but it’s making me crazy!
 
MM: What words of wisdom would you offer to aspiring high school and college students who wish to pursue a career in the music industry?
 
KW:  Make a list of your favorite radio stations, concert venues, newspapers, or local musicians.  Contact them to see if there are any internships available.  Often, when you prove yourself to be an invaluable volunteer, a paid gig will materialize and you’ll be off to the races.  The music business is one of the most competitive paths to pursue, so be patient and don’t go for the big bucks, overnight success approach.  If you’re a musician, stay true to yourself and play what you feel, not what you think the marketplace is looking for.
 
MM: What’s next for Kenny Weissberg?
 
KW: A dermatology appointment at 2:30 p.m..  Getting beaten up by my personal trainer for an hour tomorrow (I subject myself to that masochism twice weekly).  An all-women’s Mariachi triple-bill this weekend. And ten days in New York City.  Professionally?  Who the fuck knows!  😉
 
MM: In today’s economy, arts programs in schools are being cut.  What reasons would you give a politician for preserving the arts?
 
KW: I’ve given up trying to convince politicians about anything . . . the arts, the environment, gun control . . . I hate to end this interview on a sour note, but all politicians care about (on both sides of the aisle) is getting re-elected.  Most of them have sold their souls long ago.  Can you imagine trying to convince Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Eric Cantor that the arts are the lifeblood of the community?  A futile waste of time.  Make your own art, make your own music, nourish your own soul.
 
MM: Who is/was your favorite teacher?
 
KW: The two I remember most fondly are both political scientists who radicalized me in the late ’60s at the University of Wisconsin.  Maurice Zeitlin and Kenneth Dolbeare.  Brilliant men who encouraged me to think for myself.
Thank you, Kenny!
Live, Love, Learn,

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School Time Author Q&A Series: Kenny Weissberg