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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Drummer Karl Himmel Interview: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley | Rolling Stone

Prairie Wind Band

Ben Keith, Neil Young, Chad Cromwell, Rick Rosas, Spooner Oldham & Karl Himmel
(See The Prairie Wind Sessions by Neil Young)


Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and veteran musicians who have toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not decades. All are renowned in the business, but some are less well known to the general public. Here, these artists tell their complete stories, giving an up close look at life on music’s A list. In 2020, we featured the edition with drummer and songwriter Joe Vitale.  Earlier in 2021, we featured drummer Chad CromwellThis edition features drummer Karl Himmel. 

From interview with Drummer Karl Himmel Interview: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley | Rolling Stone by Andy Greene:

Rolling Stone's Andy Greene: Tell me about reconnecting with Neil Young to make Everybody’s Rockin’.

Karl Himmel: When they called me up, I said, “What setup do I need for this?” Ben Keith said, “Neil wants a snare drum, a bass drum, and a cymbal.” I was thinking, “What the hell is he doing? Am I playing too many fills? What is he doing?” Then he told me we were going to do a Fifties thing. “What?!” Then he said, “You’re going to have to shave your beard.”

That was kind of a shock. For years, I had sand in my bass drum from doing the video [for “Cry, Cry, Cry”]. He didn’t tell me about the war he was having with [David] Geffen. I was like, “I guess he knows what he’s doing, but what is he doing?”

RS: He really did make the album to piss off David Geffen. He wanted a rock record, so he gave him one.

Karl: Exactly. But he didn’t tell us what was going on. I was like, “Where is Neil going with this?”

RS: How was the tour? You’re doing an encore set of rockabilly songs to audiences that didn’t really expect that.

Karl: People were kind of shocked since they didn’t realize what we were doing. But then it kind of took off. A funny thing happened with it. We had to have fun with it, I guess. But we had fun doing that tour.

RS: Did you have to get into character as a rockabilly guy?

Karl: They put black polish in our hair. We had a wardrobe thing we had to do. It was a theatrical production.

RS: When you did Old Ways after that, it was this big transition and suddenly it was country. How was that experience for you?

Karl:I went with the flow and did it the best I could. I could feel that music. It runs in my veins. You can’t predict a move like that, but it’s great when it happens. And Neil didn’t like to do a song more than once or twice. He felt it lost something if you kept going.

RS: Tell me about the tour. It was a lot of state fairs and even some rodeo venues.

Karl: It was fun. I had fun with everything I did with him. Neil was the best person I worked with in my life. He was also a good friend. A lot of people can’t say that with groups. But it was great. I’d rather see him now at a dinner with Daryl and my wife than go on a tour, though.

RS: That Harvesters band with Spooner Oldham, Ben Keith, Anthony Crawford, and Rufus Thibodeaux was a great group.

Karl: It was fun, interesting, great music. Like Neil says when we speak, there’s only a few of us left.

Also, see Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends features with drummer and songwriter Joe Vitale and drummer Chad Cromwell



At 4/01/2021 11:43:00 AM, Blogger miketoda said...

Great article. I've always kept my eyes open for stuff about Karl. I lived briefly in New Orleans back around 2002 and I worked in a place called Sidney's on Decatur Street. We sold wine, food, lottery, and beers to go.
Karl would come in and buy a few Bud tall boys and shoot the shit for awhile. He would be playing gigs in town and he drove his RV with his dog and he would chill for the day or weekend.
At the time I just knew he was a drummer, and he was a great guy to chat with for a bit.
Few years later, I moved back to the Boston area, and I did a double take when I was looking through the Prairie Wind CD booklet, and saw the picture of him, Neil and the band. I did not notice it when the album came out, this was years after it was out and I was giving it a listen.
Really seemed like such a humble guy, never once mentioned his storied career and background.
Just a regular guy, playing somme low key gigs, sippin' on a beer and enjoying life and shooting the shit with people he meets.

At 4/01/2021 11:52:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks for the Karl memories!

Karl does sound right down to EARTH. Love this quote which sums it up:

Neil: “Why don’t you call?”

Karl: “I don’t call anybody.”

man, that is one independent mother.

At 4/01/2021 01:48:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I love that last line. "I don't call anybody." Might as well add, "and I don't want to be in the newspaper." Thank God for human beings like Karl. we need them.

At 4/01/2021 04:25:00 PM, Blogger Seamus Mc Donnell said...

That's a nice story,Thanks.i really enjoy that prairie wind album


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