I first met Renata on a European tour
I did with Asleep at the Wheel during
the summer of 1988. It was a concert in Prague featuring
bands from around
Europe and America. It was a special concert for me-one
of the featured
bands was the Slovenian country group Pohorje Express.
Not long before, I
learned that my father was full Slovenian, son of an immigrant
Ljubljana, but I had never met anyone from Slovenia. I
felt at home
immediately with the band and we had a great time getting
to know each other
backstage and later drinking and dancing at a near their
Renata and I stayed in touch for years,
but our paths became quite separate
as she found her way to Germany and I left Asleep at the
Wheel, doing a
couple of long stints in Hawai'i, about as far as you
can get from Germany.
Almost 10 years to the day after I left
Asleep at the Wheel, I got a call to
do their 2002 Summer Tour, and another call in April of
2003 to do a
one-nighter in Paris. It had been over ten years since
my last trip to
Europe. I got the call for the Paris gig on a Sunday and
the gig was the
following Friday, so I had to rush through an application
for a new
passport. Totally by coincidence, a couple of weeks before
this I was idly
surfing the internet and got curious what Renata was up
to. After a little
searching I found photos of her singing with various groups
in Germany. But
there was no email address where I could contact her.
Well, fate intervened.
While I was waiting for my passport I got an email from
Renata in Munich.
She was in the process of recording her first solo album
and wanted to know
if I could play on it! I couldn't believe it. I quickly
emailed her and her
producer Ingo Sandhofen to find out more about the project.
I really had no
time to set anything up...I hadn't received my air ticket
yet, and didn't
know if it would be possible to delay my return from Paris.
When I got to
the hotel in Paris, I quickly phoned Ingo and talked about
of doing the recording. We had only a couple of hours
to finalize the
flights, and it was a real problem booking flights at
the last minute. I was
totally jet lagged and in retrospect I don't know how
we did it. Boy was I
glad I did!
I spent almost a week in
Munich and it opened a whole new world for me.
Great people, fabulous food and beer, and great music.
It took us three days
to do the CD at Ingo's home studio, and I had to borrow
a pedal steel guitar
from Renata's friend G¸nther Dachs of the Key West
band. The sessions were a
blast-Ingo laid down some great tracks and Renata did
vocals for me to work with. And what could enhance the
whole experience more
than great food and Weissbier at local Munich hotspots
in between sessions?!
Renata's husband, Hannes Frey, made the whole project
possible. He opened up
his house to me for the whole week. Wow! Unbelievable
Greek food just down
the street and hours catching up on the 15 years since
I had last seen
Making the CD with
Renata, Hannes, and Ingo was a fabulous experience and
lead directly to opportunities in Central Europe, including
festivals in Germany, Slovakia, France, and Spain. On
the last leg of our
recent tour of Bavaria, Reny was thankfully available
to fill in for our
lead singer, who ran into some health problems this summer.
It was so great
to be on a show again together after all those years.
I look forward to more
projects together. Many thanks to Hannes and Reny for
opening up a whole
new world for me musically and otherwise.
- John Ely -