by Hal Saylor and Lonnie Morris
compiled by Greg Allard
David Mason, not to be confused with the Dave Mason of Traffic fame, has reportedly died in Tallahassee, Fla. on September 13. He was 63. Although he was a fixture in the music scene for many years in Gainesville, his talents and ambitions were too big for just one town. Throughout the course of his career, he played for the likes of Joe Walsh, Elton John, Todd Rundgren and many others. Gainesville musician Hal Saylor, who had a good deal of association with him, remembers.
Hal Saylor: David Mason was such a great organ player. He was influenced by the great Hammond organ players of the ‘60s, including Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff. He told me stories of sitting for hours and copping Jimmy Smith solos, note for note as a kid.
He was always on the cutting edge when it came to his keyboard gear– always finding a way to procure the latest technological innovation in the gear he possessed. I know he played with many groups in Gainesville in the ‘60s and ‘70s including a band with Tom Petty, that I cannot remember the name of, and the successful early ‘70s southeastern US touring R&B road band Blacklash.
He then got the call from Todd Rundgren and co-wrote and performed on the highly successful art rock album Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. He toured in support of that album with a clear plexiglass Hammond B3 that was supposed to be quite an eye-opening stage prop.
A little later, he performed in Joe Walsh’s band and recorded a really great live album “You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind.” He told stories of participating in Walsh’s infamous road antics that got him kicked out of and sued by hotels across the world, including the time Walsh hauled a fire-hose out from the emergency fire cabinet, stuck it under the door of the drummer, turned it on and soaked four floors of some upscale hotel, causing thousand of dollars in damages. He had a gold album on his wall with that one.
After that, he was a first-call touring B3 player, through the connections of Gainesville’s Bernie Leadon and Don Felder, for people like Jackson Browne, Melanie, etc.
He had a picture of himself and Elton John sharing the same piano bench and playing two on the same piano. He met Elton in LA and Elton was blown away with his playing. Elton took David to England and did a brief UK tour with him. Then, I think, the death of David’s daughter brought him back to GV.
He played with just about every jazz/blues groove-oriented group here in the ‘80s, including a groove band called Collage. I played every Monday night with him at the Blue Monday Jam at Richenbachers in the mid-late-‘80s, and he recorded a lot of midi stuff of which I collaborated on.
The WRUF-TV News used his piece for a few years as their main music theme, called 5 Alive. David then moved to Tallahassee and played on a regular basis with George Clinton.
He is survived by his son, Brook, of Newberry.
He was the most gentle soul I have ever met. RIP David Roger Mason.
Lonnie Morris: When David was in our band, Styrofoam Soule, I found David to be extremely talented and exciting as a musician. Around the time David played with us we probably had changed the name to The Steve Morris Band. On You Tube, are about 20 recordings we did live in 1974 at Perry, FL with David on B3 and Fender Rhodes.
He had a great personality, a very nice person, had a good sense of humor. His playing had a great groove with a soulful and jazzy feel but he fit in rock music well too. I feel honored that he played with us and am sorry to hear he has passed.Share on social media