If the names Black Jacket Symphony, Vova Nova and The Cast mean anything to you, then you are familiar with Mark Lanter. A stalwart drummer on Birmingham’s music scene for nearly five decades, Lanter continues to perform (most notably with Black Jacket Symphony) and record in addition to holding faculty positions at both UAB and the University of Alabama.
Now, to add to his already busy schedule, Lanter is rolling out The Maverick Lounge series at WorkPlay. Unlike Black Jacket Symphony’s focus of covering a particular album, each show in Lanter’s series will tell a band’s story through both songs — played in chronological order — and spoken narrative. On Friday, February 17, The Music and Story of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young will set the series in motion. Joining Lanter onstage will be J. Willoughby, Tony Lucca, Judd Fuller, Matt Casey, Allen Barlow, and Peyton Grant. Recently, Lanter spoke to Weld about the origin of the series and its future plans.
Weld: To start off, take us back to the origins of The Maverick Lounge series in general and the upcoming CSNY show in particular.
Mark Lanter: The idea evolved from playing with The Red Coats, a spinoff group that I started with J. Willoughby. We played early Beatles music and we built a real big following doing that. It was very successful. To connect the songs we were doing, we started giving anecdotes and historical facts about Beatles songs just to have something to say to the audience. It ended up being how we presented The Red Coats — songs in chronological order with pertinent and historic facts.
From that idea, The Maverick Lounge series was born. It’s like VH1’s [television series] Behind The Music that gives the chronological story of a given artist or band. We’re not trying to replicate albums like Black Jacket Symphony. There will be a narration in key parts of the show.
Weld: How did you go about selecting the musicians for this show? Will future shows feature a revolving cast of players?
Lanter: Availability is the key, and I personally call different musicians for different types of gigs. Everybody has their wheelhouse, if you will, and things that they love. This was hand-picked and everything will be hand-picked and availability plays into it as well. I have plans for Carole King and Joni Mitchell shows — things that tend to get forgotten but were just as revolutionary as Led Zeppelin and The Who.
Weld: Based on Black Jacket Symphony’s success, I suspect there will be a real thirst for the material you’re addressing in this series as well.
Lanter: This music literally dominated radio and concert sales in the mid-’70s. Even a group like Weather Report — a fusion band — filled arenas in those days, and that seems to be forgotten. But that music is just as important to me as my Beatles records and my Miles Davis records, because it was all innovative and it’s timeless.
Weld: With the deep catalog that CSNY possesses, how did you go about selecting the songs for the set list?
Lanter: I wanted to format this into a 90-minute show, so the time limitations help determine that. I’m looking for a balance — a flow [of] what might work in a concert setting. You want a variety and mixture and I do it according to texture — acoustic and electric songs and that sort of thing.
Weld: Do you have a specific timetable for upcoming shows in this series?
Lanter: It’s wait-and-see. How this first show goes will determine part of it. I would like to do a show every other month. It’s a quick turnaround to get a new show together once a month. I’m wide open and I’m going to wait and see before I make any official projections.
This is an idea that’s been gnawing at me for some time. Just like all things that I’ve done as a musician, if something stays with me I’ve got to do it. Most things work out, fortunately, and we’ll see about this. Hopefully, it will.
The Maverick Lounge Series Presents the Music and Story of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young will take place on Friday, February 17 at WorkPlay. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $18 and can be purchased at workplay.com.