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Dave Mason is still 'Feelin' Alright'

WANT TO GO?

"Mountain Stage"

With Ani DiFranco, Dawes, Dave Mason and Red Baraat

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: Advance $30, at the door $35

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org _____

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Feelin' Alright" is one of those songs that never goes out of rotation on classic rock radio. Most people hear it and think of Joe Cocker, but every now and again, another version turns up.

There are a few. Some of the high points include Three Dog Night, The Jackson Five, Huey Lewis and the News, The Black Crowes and Widespread Panic, but there are about 50 versions out there, according to singer/songwriter and guitarist Dave Mason, who wrote and recorded the song with the British rock band Traffic back in 1968.

Mason, who performs Sunday night at the Clay Center on "Mountain Stage," still sounded a little mystified at the tune's enduring popularity.

"It's taken on a life of it's own," he said, acknowledging that mostly has to do with Cocker.

It's one of his signature songs, although it was never a big hit for anybody. The song didn't crack the Top 100 on the Billboard charts for Traffic, and Cocker's take on it only made it to No. 69 in 1969 and No. 33 in 1972 -- hardly a monster.

Yet the song has endured. It's turned up on the radio, in films, on television and, probably, half the bars in the English-speaking world.

"Yeah, a lot of garage bands," Mason agreed and laughed.

He doesn't mind. He said that when he set out to write that song, he was trying to come up with something timeless -- and so far, "Feelin' Alright," seems well on its way.

Part of the song's appeal might be due to the song's simplicity. Mason said he was trying to make the song as simple as his 19-year-old mind could imagine.

"The whole thing is just two chords."

And it's about something people can relate to -- a relationship.

"Something half the songs are about."

Mason wrote "Feelin' Alright" on the Greek island of Hydra (pronounced Hee-dra). He added, "which I remind people if they're looking to buy an island, now would be a good time to make an offer."

Mason, though, isn't ready to settle down.

At 67, he's just bought his first tour bus, his new home on wheels, he said, where he can drag along his lifestyle while trying to earn a living on the road.

The 21st century has been hard on guys like Mason. Classic rock stations might play the odd Traffic song or some of his solo material, like "We Just Disagree" or "Only You Know and I Know," but practically none of them play any of his latter-day recordings.

"They don't play anything new by the classic rock artists," he said, "which I don't get at all."

The Internet isn't doing him a lot of favors either, but Mason doesn't think his generation is in the minority. Popular services like Spotify and Pandora pay very little. Spotify, for instance, pays about half a cent for each play of a song. The only people making any money are the people who own the Web services, not the artists.

He laughed and said it makes him almost long for the old days, back when everybody was just getting screwed over by the record companies.

"At least you knew who was doing it to you," he said.

Still, Mason acknowledged, the Internet does give him some tools to reach people. People can find him through his website, www.davemasonmusic.com, where he can at least tell people he has new material.

Fans can subscribe for email updates, too.

"It's all becoming direct marketing," he said. "Very one-on-one."

 Mason said he catches himself sometimes rattling on about the headaches of being a rocker with a classic rock pedigree. People don't always want to hear about it and, besides, he has other things to talk about.

Aside from new music, Mason said he's working on a music-television idea with actor Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange").

"We're calling it '26/12' -- that's 26 letters and 12 notes of music," he said. "We kind of see it as a cross between 'Soundstage' and 'The Actor's Workshop' with music and storytelling."

He's also active with the charity Work Vessels for Veterans, a small, volunteer group he co-founded that helps veterans transition back to the civilian world and start businesses. They provide tools and equipment.

"We've helped a man start a blueberry farm in Jacksonville, Florida," he said. "We helped another start an office-cleaning business. We've given out a lot of laptops. I'm really proud of that."

Mason's music career is as much work as it's ever been. It frustrates him, but the other stuff he does helps to balance it out. He feels all right. Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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