Guitarist Danny Kortchmar says he traveled “everywhere” when he played in James Taylor’s band many decades ago, and he has also toured with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and David Crosby and Graham Nash. He stopped touring on a regular basis in the 1980s to become a record producer, but, now, the 75-year-old rock ‘n’ roll veteran has taken to the road again with long-time friends Waddy Wachtel, Lee Sklar and Russ Kunkel in their band, the Immediate Family.
Kortchmar heads to San Juan Capistrano, California, Wednesday for the opening night of a 12-date, six-state Immediate Family tour. The band, which released its self-titled debut album in late August and also includes guitarist Steve Postell, has scheduled shows in three California cities and Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Travel elicits many memories for Kortchmar, a West Coast session musician who early on made a name for himself by playing on two landmark albums, Taylor’s Sweet Baby James and Carole King’s Tapestry. One destination he will never forget is Paris, his favorite city abroad.
“The whole place is a museum,” Kortchmar says. “Walking through it is like walking through a huge museum. It’s an incredibly beautiful city. I also think Rome is a fantastic city that I love very much.”
Anytime a traveler leaves home and visits another country, there is intellectual stimulation, he says.
“It stimulates you because you’re not in your comfort zone,” Kortchmar explains. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on around you. It’s all new, it’s all different.”
In the USA, Kortchmar’s favorite travel destinations are places where he has lived: the East Coast, New York City and Los Angeles. He was born in New York City and lived in Manhattan until age 4 or 5, when his family moved to suburban Westchester County.
“I grew up in Larchmont, New York, a nice little town,” he says. “It was very peaceful and quiet, and I liked it when I was a kid, because you could walk everywhere.”
Larchmont is an affluent village next to the Long Island Sound about 20 miles northeast of Manhattan. Its residents have included Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and actor, screenwriter and producer Douglas Fairbanks. Arthur Hailey’s 1990 novel The Evening News was about a television anchorman and his wife who lived “an opulent Ken-and-Barbie life in Larchmont,” according to the New York Times, “until some nasty Shining Path terrorists come north to stage a kidnapping.”
Such fictional excitement didn’t come Kortchmar’s way in Larchmont.
“As I got older, when I became a pre-teen and a teenager, I realized it was incredibly boring,” Kortchmar says, “and I used to refer to it as the ‘velvet rut.’”
So, the village, he says, inspired him “to get out of suburbia and into the world of playing rock and roll and playing gigs.” Today, Larchmont hasn’t changed much, he says.
“I’ve gone back there a few times because my daughter was in college in lower Westchester County,” Kortchmar says. “Larchmont is still lovely and beautiful, charming and sweet.”
Nearby Connecticut, where Kortchmar and the Immediate Family will play two concerts this month, is another place he looks at fondly. He lived in Westport and Wilton on the southern side of the state and in Granby on the northern side.
“I left California when my daughter was 2 years old and wanted to raise her on the East Coast,” he says. “We moved back to Connecticut for several years.”
Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts is another favorite destination.
“My family used to go to there every summer when I was growing up, so I’ll always think fondly of Martha’s Vineyard,” he says. “It’s changed so radically, though. Now, it’s like the Hamptons — packed to the rafters every summer.”
Kortchmar says few or no millionaires lived there when he was young, and the wealthy then didn’t boast about their fortunes.
“Today, there’s lots of zillionaires who go there,” he says. “When I went there with my family, there was one swimming pool on the whole island. Now, if you fly over Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll see about 300. It’s a very different place today, but going there every summer was an absolutely wonderful experience.”
With decades of touring under his belt and one’s hair getting grayer, are there any new strategies Kortchmar employs to make travel less exhausting?
“That’s really a difficult question, because the last tour I did was 11 years ago — the Troubadour Reunion Tour with James Taylor and Carole King,” Kortchmar responds. “We played arenas, and it was a big deal, so the travel and lodgings were first-class all the time. That made it really easy.
“What we’re about to do now with the Immediate Family is not that luxurious,” he says. “But I’m prepared to pay more money personally for flying and hotels. As a band, our tours are booked without a ton of dates in a row. We do, maybe, three dates and then a day off, and then maybe another three. We’re not working five, six or seven days in a row like a lot of bands do. That’s one way to keep from becoming exhausted.”