Sunday, June 26, 2011

Like A Circle

‎"... here it comes again. here it comes again. just when you thought that love was gone forever...." (from "Like A Circle") (get it on iTunes)

I Believe....

I believe in unconditional love. Up to a certain point. :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What I Said Was.....

".... I said: I wanna miso soup, a sake, and a shrimp okonomiaki. And that'll do me. Yep, that'll do me...."

Monday, June 28, 2010

LA Examiner reviews 'Face To Face'

'Face to Face' by Professor RJ Ross

LA Examiner
June 28, 2010

by Oscar Brooks

The debut album Face to Face by Professor RJ Ross is refreshing and easy to listen to. Mr. Ross has been in the music business for many years, but this is his first solo album. He was a keyboardist and singer with different groups in his native Detroit. He got the nickname "Professor" because of his seriousness about music and expertise at running rehearsals. Professor RJ Ross and the University of Soul really deliver on this CD.

The album has the sound of soul, blues and a little bit of funk to it. It has quite a variety of songs ranging from Johnny Mercer to America. Honestly, all 14 tracks on the CD are good. The songs that stood out for me were 'Summertime', the Gladys Knight and the Pips hit , 'I've Got to Use My Imagination', 'Wishing', Steely Dan's 'Do It Again', 'Electricity' and the Beatles 'Drive My Car'. Ross uses his deep and sensuous voice to give these songs a different flavor that is a joy to listen to.

The musicians playing on this album really complement Ross. Steve Gad plays drums on five of the songs. The great Neil Larsen plays Hammond organ. Saxophonist Ernie Watts plays on five songs and Jerry Stucker plays guitar on all songs. A special shot out goes to Sandy Griffith and Jeannie Tracy for their excellent work on background vocals. I really like listening to this album. It is great to hear it in your car or if you're sitting at home in your favorite chair.

A big 'thanks' goes out to Chrissy Sutphin of Luck Media & Marketing ( for introducing me to this project. If you want to know more about Professor RJ Ross, log onto

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Donkey Serenade

A few days ago, around midnight, in my kitchen, I had an ecstatic, transcendent, truly heavenly experience, lasting more than two hours. No, it wasn't a wild, San Francisco sex orgy. In fact, I was all alone. Let me explain.

It was Saturday night and I had just come home from a delightful dinner at my friends, Howard and Garry's house. We had had great conversation all evening, and after dinner we talked enthusiastically for two more hours on a wide range of subjects from philosophy and music, to religion and politics – all seasoned, from time to time, with the spice of smutty, gay humor (it seems that all roads, somehow, eventually lead to sex, or at least to talking about sex.....). As I was leaving, I mentioned that I had just seen the Michael Feinstein documentary, The American Songbook, which tells the story of the great American song composers of the Thirties and Forties.

The documentary mentioned one composer I had never heard of, the immigrant, Rudolph Friml. There were accounts that he could sit at a piano for hours, effortlessly spinning out one gorgeous melody after another. And there was even a few seconds of what looked like a home movie showing the young, very buoyant composer performing at a keyboard and then jumping up from the piano-bench, acting a little silly and sweetly childlike.

Then it showed a clip from a 1938 Hollywood movie, The Firefly, for which Friml had composed the music. Suddenly I was electrified. It was a melody that I had occasionally heard snippets of when I was a very young child, back in the nineteen fifties. It was a melody that had mesmerized me then, and now came flooding back to my conscious mind.

Music is so mysterious. I don't know why that song had such an impact on me as a child. But it was like something haunting, that had somehow slipped through the cracks from another world. It was like a faint intimation of a more joyous and loving and simpler world. I never knew what the song was called, or what it was about, or where it came from. And perhaps that all added to it's mystery and dreaminess.

So, as I was leaving, I mentioned all this to my two hosts, and Garry, who is quite the musical theatre buff, asked me to sing the melody for him. Oh, he said, that's The Donkey Serenade. Great, I said, I can't wait to get home and Google it.

And that's why, at two a.m. in the morning I was dancing ecstatically, and with total abandon, around the kitchen table for the thirty seventh time. The music transported me. I was lost in a world of beauty. I had to hear it again, and again, and again. And when I finally, grudgingly, went upstairs to wash up for bed, I took the computer into the bathroom so I could hear it some more.

I had found the original movie soundtrack version. It's really a deceptively simple melody, but the arrangement is so brilliant and charming. It's built over a lazy, latin percussion rhythm, to imitate the sound of donkey's feet clomping along the road. In the movie, a young man, (Allan Jones), rides a horse alongside an elegant carriage being pulled by donkeys. As he rides along, the young man is serenading, and trying, without much luck, to gain the attention of the beautiful and stylish young lady inside (Jeanette MacDonald). On top of the carriage, sitting next to the driver (who is playing a guitar), is a little boy with a flute. These flute parts, as well as the little boy's squeaky and incredibly cute voice, are ingeniously woven into the arrangement, giving the whole piece a heart-breaking innocence and sincerity.

The internet is so funny. Not only had Google allowed me to find a cherished melody that had been lost to me since my earliest childhood, but I immediately, in the midst of my ecstasy, started emailing the link to friends all over the world. I just had to share my happiness with everyone.

I'm sure some of them thought I was completely crazy. Why is he sending me this scratchy, operetta-like song from a 1938 movie musical? And maybe you'll think I'm crazy too, but here's the links. You can hear the original song (without the visuals) at And I have not been able to find the full video clip of the scene (if you find it, PLEASE let me know), but you can see a very short snippet of the scene in the trailer for the movie (it's at 1:24 into the trailer) at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Leaving Detroit

I left Detroit for the last time and moved out to the Bay Area in 1978. I was twenty-nine years old. Ten years earlier I had lived in San Francisco for a few months and had fallen in love with the place. It was always in the back of my mind to return and live there someday.

During my twenties in Detroit, I'd had a lot of musical success, with Brainstorm and all that. But there was also a dark side to those years. When I was twenty-two I'd started going to gay bars and having various love affairs and romances. Gay liberation was exploding all over the world. It was exciting and wonderful, actually it felt like a miracle, to finally have a chance to find someone to love. But I felt compelled to keep all of this secret from my family, my friends, and the musicians I worked with. There's a reason why so many of the greatest British spies were homosexual. We were forced to learn how to live double lives. Constantly covering our tracks, deftly lying or changing the subject to protect our identity.

Gay people were so loathed by society (and in most places still are), that at a very young age we learned one extremely important survival skill. We learned to keep our true feelings hidden. It's a terrible thing to live a double life. It takes a serious toll on a person's emotional and mental well-being. It's truly poisonous to the heart and soul. By my late twenties, I knew, somehow, I was going to have to "come out" and start living a more open life. And I knew this would be difficult around the people I had grown up with.

So I packed my musical instruments and a few suitcases in my car, gave my cat, Festus, to the sweet old lady next door (who was actually not too thrilled about it), and headed out Interstate 80. Bound for California and a new life.

Now driving across an entire continent can be quite a grind. You drive fourteen hours, sleep in a motel, get up and drive another fourteen hours, sleep, get up and drive another fourteen hours.... Finally, on the fourth day, bleary-eyed and half-crazy from boredom, you find yourself within striking distance of San Francisco.

But on the other hand, there's something exhilarating about crossing North America, all by yourself, in your little Datsun station wagon. You feel like Lewis and Clark, or even Magellan, circumnavigating the globe. I remember at one point I was highly caffeinated, my radio was blasting some ecstatic pop song, and I was yelling out the window, with the wind in my face, "Wait for me, California. I'm on my way. Come on kids, don't start without me. HERE I COME!".

It was winter. Very early in the year of 1978. The Detroit I had left, four days ago, was dirty, gray, barren, and cold. The snow on the city streets had been lying there forever, and was filthy, almost black. There had been no green grass, or leaves on tress, or flowers, or really any signs of life for many months. And crossing the Rocky Mountains on highway 80, I had just been driving on icy roads through tremendous snow storms and freezing winds.

So as I neared my destination, my old musician friend Ed DeDeo's place in West Marin, just north of San Francisco, I couldn't believe my eyes. The soft, rolling, grassy hills of Forest Knolls and Woodacre were brilliantly green. Breathtakingly green. The sun was shining, and the air was balmy and fragrant. It seemed that I had magically broken through some kind of time and space warp, and was driving my salt-encrusted Datsun into a glorious and sparkling midsummer day.

And in fact, I had broken through all kinds of barriers of space and time and emotion. My courage was rising, and I was on the verge of a great new adventure.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Ronny Schwartz and I were close friends when we were kids. Ronny had bright red hair, freckles, and a really nice disposition. He was always up for any of the crazy adventures and schemes I proposed, and in my memories, I always see him as smiling and cracking up. At some point, I named him "Schwo", as a kind of funny abbreviation of his last name. And till this day, almost fifty years later, Ronny is still called Schwo, by everyone, including his wife.

Now there was an elephant in the room, in our late 1950's middle-class neighborhood in northwest Detroit. It was something everyone knew about, but no one talked about. Schwo's father, Max Schwartz, was a bookie. Which means he was a small-time gangster, working for organized crime, and taking bets on horse races and other events. Actually, it was sort of cool. In the middle of automobile boom-town Detroit, in our middle-class, conformist, upstanding, all-American neighborhood, CRIME was taking place.

I remember Max very well. One day I was standing in his living room and Max was there with a few friends. The TV was announcing that Sir Edmund Hillary had just made the first successful ascent to the top of Mount Everest. In his gruff, New York Jewish accent, Max said, "Yeah, that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee". I guess he wasn't very impressed.

When we were thirteen, my older brother's band, The Classics, played Schwo's bar mitzvah. Now it was customary at these elaborate and showy affairs to have a candle-lighting ceremony. Different guests would be asked to light one of the thirteen candles on the cake. There would be a candle of honesty, a candle of integrity, a candle of diligence, etc. etc.

Well, at Schwo's bar mitzvah, this all became quite hilarious. As the band leader and M.C., my brother would announce, "and now, to light the candle of integrity, Mr. Chicky Sherman". And everyone would fall on the floor laughing. Apparently, Mr. Sherman had just been released from a federal prison, for tax evasion. And this would go on with the candle of honesty, the candle of modesty, the candle of scholarship, and so on. You get the picture.

And God forbid you should make the mistake of calling Schwo between three and six P.M., when Max was taking bets. In my high-pitched ten year-old voice I'd say "Is Ronny there?". And at the other end, Max would mutter "God Dammit" and the phone would slam down on the receiver.

Now one serious problem Max Schwartz had, was what to do with his money. He didn't want to declare his income or put it in a bank, so he bought jewelry. Schwo, who was a very unassuming and totally down-to-earth kid, would be bedecked in huge gold rings with bulbous diamonds popping out all over. Heavy gold and platinum chains around his neck, fabulous Swiss diamond wrist watches, and gold arm bracelets. One day at school, my friends and I tried to estimate the net worth of the jewelry Schwo was wearing that morning.

I want to mention here, that other kids might have become quite stuck-up or snobby, having all that expensive stuff. But Schwo, was just the sweetest, most totally unpretentious kid you could imagine. It didn't mean anything to him. He just wore it because his parents gave it to him. Anyway, I can't remember the exact figure we came up with, but it was many, many thousands of dollars, at a time when a man could comfortably support a family on $10,000 a year.

Schwo was a really good friend. We laughed a lot and had a lot of fun. Which is what kids are supposed to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fierceness

Ten years ago I was working alone in my recording studio, adding the final touches to one of my new songs. The phone rang and a voice on the other end told me that I had stage-4 cancer. I had had no symptoms. In an instant the whole world careened to a total stop.

The next day a young doctor, after enthusiastically telling me about the new house he was buying for his family in an upscale suburb, very cauusally mentioned that I had an extremely rare form of cancer and that it was inoperable and incurable. I remember calling my sister from a telephone booth near the medical center. I remember the un-controlable tears streaming down my face as she told me she would fly out right away to be with me. They weren't tears of sadness or self pity. They were tears of joy upon realizing my sister's love for me.

Thus began an amazing roller coaster ride of heartbreaking joy and darkest despair. Over the next few days, as I experienced the tremendous love of my family and friends, my heart opened wide. It truly broke open. I was amazed at the power of love. I didn't know I could love that much. Or allow myself to be loved that much.

I also remember the beginning of what I call "the fierceness". I was driving across the Bay Bridge, maybe a week after my initial prognosis. I had just begun reading a book on alternative cancer treatments and it started to give me hope. Suddenly, in the middle of the bridge, I got really angry. Who are these people to tell me that my cancer is incurable? How do they know? How dare they!

When I got to the medical center twenty minutes later and stepped out of my car I was like a new person. An hour earlier I had been walking slowly and a little hunched over — like an old man, with one foot in the grave. Now there was spring in my step. I was fully energized. I was fierce and vitally alive. I learned that if someone tells you that your disease is incurable it means that they don't have a cure for it. You thank them very much and go looking for someone who does have a cure.

And so I started on a five year journey — a search that eventually led me back to my life and my health.

Monday, September 21, 2009

High Times At The London Bridge

My band, Brainstorm, played five nights a week, for nine months, at a big, beautiful dance club just outside Detroit. The club was called "The London Bridge", and the two guys that owned it, loved us. Originally, we were an all black (except for me) eight piece band, with two horns and two fabulous girl singers. The club was in Dearborn, an all white suburb, but it was cool because we drew a mixed, black and white crowd, and everyone got along real well. The club held hundreds and hundreds of people, and the reason the owners loved us, was that folks were lined up around the block to get in. It was 1975-1976, and we were a big hit in Detroit. I was twenty-six years old.

The night club had a huge dance floor, and everyone who was anyone came out to see us and dance to our music. Many celebrities came through, including members of the Detroit Pistons, and musician Frank Zappa (who tried to steal our bass player).

The owners loved us so much that they gave us a spacious and very private dressing room to hang out in during our breaks. Many times, the eight band members and a few friends would be down in our dressing room, partying, telling funny stories, and, of course, smoking a few joints, and we would literally forget that there were a couple hundred paying customers upstairs waiting to hear us. We weren't trying to be rude, we were just having so much fun that we completely forgot where we were. Sometimes an hour would go by, and suddenly we would come to our senses and rush upstairs to the stage. And in the nine months we worked there, never once did the owners look at their watches, or try to hurry us up. In fact, they never even mentioned it to us.

Now, this was the mid-seventies, and these were high times in America. But I wouldn't say we were really heavy drug users. We smoked some pot, and people would sometimes buy us drinks, but that was about it. I do, however, remember one night that was a little different.

Someone had brought some coke down to our dressing room. This was unusual, but how could we refuse? We all sniffed a little and went upstairs to play our set. Now, the thing about Brainstorm was that in addition to being an incredibly passionate and high energy band, we were also very polished, and highly rehearsed. We had tight arrangements, with great vocal harmonies, horn lines, instrumental transitions, and dramatic endings. So, we were up there playing down our set, and, like always, everything sounded perfect. All the T's were being crossed and all the I's were being dotted. Everything was in it's place. But about halfway through the set, I turned around and looked at Ranel, our drummer, and we both cracked up. Because, while everything was perfect and in it's place, the tempos we were playing at were off the charts. It was like a 33 rpm record was being played at 78 rpm.

Now I realize a lot of younger people today have no idea what a 33 or 78 rpm record is. So let me just say that on that night, we played those songs FAST. I mean, Alvin and the Chipmunks would have felt very comfortable jamming with us that night. It was indeed high times at The London Bridge.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Drew's Lounge

When I was twenty-three I got my first steady gig as a piano player. I had been performing music professionally as a band-leader, trumpet player and lead singer since I was eleven years old, but only began studying piano when I was nineteen.

Three black guys, a bassist, guitarist and drummer, asked me to join them for a four day a week gig at a little club called Drews. It was the beginning of several years of working the "chitlin' circuit"–small dance clubs (really just bars) with a black clientele in the Detroit inner city. We played there for several months, four hours a night and four days a week, and the amazing thing is, we never had one rehearsal. I think we only knew about eight or nine songs! But we would hit a groove, and really stretch those songs out. One song could easily last twenty minutes. If we had smoked a little weed, it could last twenty-five or thirty minutes. And the people loved it. It was a big party and the dance floor was full.

I actually had no idea what I was doing as an R&B pianist. The other guys were really good rhythm and blues players, well grounded in the music of the black church and the blues, but they seemed to like what I was doing. I know I was passionate and creative, and I guess they liked that I gave them a more "original" sound.

We used to drink Miller Lite beer, mixed with a sweet red syrup called Grenadine. Wow!

One night we were sitting at a table, just chilling during our fifteen minute break. Suddenly, the lights went out. I mean it was pitch black. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It didn't last long. I'm sure less than thirty seconds. But when the lights came back on, Lamont, the bass player, who had been sitting next to me, was miraculously up on the stage, with his arms spread wide, protecting his bass and bass amplifier. I was really impressed. Lamont had grown up poor, in the dog eat dog realty of city life. As soon as those lights went out, he immediately assumed it might be a stick-up. He pounced on stage to protect his investment. I respected Lamont's quick wits, and survival skills. A few years later, Lamont and I were founding members of the legendary Detroit funk band, Brainstorm. And I should mention here, that Lamont Johnson was an INCREDIBLE bass player!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Amsterdam Nights

I've had a lot of romantic and sexual partners in my life. More than I can remember in my long (as I like to call it) "career" as a homosexual. But only once did I actually use someone for economic purposes. I'm not proud of this, but I'll tell you how it happened.

I was twenty-one, and living with a bunch of international hippies in an abandoned house in Amsterdam. It was winter, and the canals had frozen solid. My wonderful friend, Bob, who I'd just met a few days earlier, decided to show me one of Amsterdam's huge gay dance clubs. Bob wasn't gay, but when I told him I was (an act of unbelievable courage for me at that tender age) he just wanted to show me what Amsterdam had to offer.

This was 1971. The beginning years of gay liberation, and I had never been to a gay disco. I don't even think there were any in Detroit, where I grew up. On that winter night in Amsterdam, Bob and I walked into a huge and fabulous multi-level space with dance music blasting. It seemed like there were a thousand kids dancing and partying. Kids from all over the world. I'm sure I must have looked a little dazed and star-struck.

A few hours into the evening, I was standing near the dance floor, when a guy came up to me and started speaking Spanish. I told him I don't speak Spanish, and he switched over to English. He said his name was S., and that he was from Mexico. He'd thought I was Mexican. I don't know why. I had just arrived from weeks in Spain and Morocco, so I'm sure I was pretty tanned. I also had a moustache and was in my scruffy, hippy mode of attire. S. said he was an artist and had a factory in Guadalajara that produced his decorative art objects.

He was obviously "interested" in me, but here I've got to be completely honest. S. was a good-looking, very charming and intelligent guy, but he was TWENTY-SIX! When I was twenty-one, someone who was twenty-six was beyond my comprehension. I know, I'm an "ageist pig"", but there it is. I just was not attracted to such an old guy. (I realize this is totally absurd– have you looked at a twenty-six year old lately?) The other thing I have to admit, is that i've always liked younger guys. When I was twelve, I liked eleven year olds.....

Well, I guess S. was pretty persuasive, because I ended up leaving with him. And it turned out that he was staying in an incredibly luxurious gay hotel. I need to remind you that at this time I had been living in an abandoned, broken-down hippy house with NO HEAT and horrible plumbing in the middle of the Dutch winter. S.'s gay hotel had central heating, double mattress beds, impeccably clean bathrooms and a multi-course breakfast served every morning!

So, like a total whore, I stayed with S. for a while. Actually, he was a really interesting guy, and I learned a lot from him. He showed me slides of some of his artwork. I could see that it was imaginatively and professionally done, but it was decorative art, and didn't have the depth or soul that I look for in art. I should mention, that S. eventually became internationally famous and very rich, with his own high-end galleries all over the world.

So that's my story. After a while I moved back to America to begin my music career in earnest. It was the one time I used my looks and youth to get bourgeois, material comfort. I hope you won't judge me too harshly.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Six Weeks In A Cracked House

As soon as we got to Amsterdam, Jim took me over to a "cracked" house he knew about, and introduced me to the five or six people who were living there. For Free! Like, NO RENT! And what a colorful cast of characters it was.

I immediately became great friends with Bob Regan, a long-haired Irish-American hippy, a few years older than me, who had recently graduated from art school in New York. Bob had a wonderfully outgoing personality and he seemed to be friends with everyone in Amsterdam. He kind of took me under his wing and began introducing me all around.

Their was a German hippy there, who kept talking about "wampires". And there was a South African white guy with a big black beard. He was all of twenty-six or seven, and seemed extremely grown up and mature in my twenty-one year old eyes. He looked and acted like some kind of communist revolutionary, but, come to think of it, all he ever seemed to be doing was trying to bed the various young hippy girls who were floating through.

I mean, this place was FUNKY. The winter was coming on (the canals had frozen) and all we had was a little oil burning stove for heat. The guys had brought in a working toilet and sink, and actually, sort of, made the plumbing work. (It must have been so horrible, that I seem to have blocked out any memory of it.) And for electricity, they ran an extension cord out to a street lamp. Talk about a fire hazard! We also, very carefully covered all the windows with newspaper, so no one would know we were there at night.

I think one of the most exciting things about living in a new place, where nobody knows you, is that you can re-invent yourself. I had never told any of my friends that I was gay. I had felt compelled to carefully, and painfully, hide it for many years. But I felt so liberated in this exotic setting, and so comfortable with my new friend, Bob Regan, that I just immediately came out and told him. It felt so great not to have to hide anything. Finally, I could really be myself. And of course, Bob, who was straight, was completely accepting of me. He said, cool, tomorrow night I'll take you to these two huge gay dance clubs called the D.O.C. and the C.O.C. And he did......

(to be continued......)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Road To Amsterdam

So, as I neared my twenty-second birthday, my travel buddies and I climbed into Jim's old Volvo, and we headed north, driving out of Morocco on our way to Amsterdam. I guess we were in no great hurry, because we made numerous sightseeing stops along the way.

One stop I'll never forget, was in Granada, Spain, where we toured the Alhambra. This is a fabulous grouping of fourteenth century Moorish palaces and gardens. I was dumbstruck. I had never seen, nor have I seen since, such a breathtaking display of architectural beauty. The water flowing through the formal gardens, the fountains in the tiled courtyards, the exquisite craftsmanship of the Moorish decoration, the elegance of the structures, the perfect balance between nature and art, all seemed to create a very convincing vision of heaven on earth. This was the incredibly advanced Islamic civilization that gave us algebra, and actually ignited the European Renaissance.

There were lots of interesting stops as we drove through Spain and then France. But we finally arrived in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. We ended up in the Centrum, which was the old part of the city. Built along canals, it looks a lot like it did in Rembrandt's paintings from the seventeenth century.

That's when Jim started telling me about "cracked" houses. Apparently, Amsterdam was in the middle of a housing crises. Many houses had been evacuated, so that they could be torn down to make room for new construction. The problem was that the city had gotten way behind on their rebuilding schedule, and hippies from all over the world had secretly moved back into the abandoned houses. Some had been living there for years! The city would smash the sinks and toilets, and tear out the electrical wiring to prevent people from moving in, but the kids were pretty inventive.

And so, I found myself living with a motley crew of international hippies, in a "cracked" house in Amsterdam.

(to be continued....)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Take Me To The Casbah

And so I entered Morocco. Passing through Tanger on my way to Casablanca, it was like walking into a dream. It was the Arabian Nights. It was a thousand years ago. The maze of winding streets, the braying camels and donkeys, old bearded men wearing robes and turbans, the beautiful haunting calls to prayer, the open-air shops selling colorful spices, the tantalizing smells of food being cooked outdoors. In the cafes, the business men wore red fezes, drank glasses of sweet, bright-green mint tea, and smoked from hookahs.

All around me, the crowing of roosters, the incessant honking of horns, the fabulous rhythms of north African music playing on radios, mixed in with snippets of Jimi Hendrix. Now, at this point, I was spending a few days in the Medina, or old section, of Casablanca. I'd met up with a couple guys I'd hung out with in Spain, and we shared a room to save some money. They had heard about a beautiful seaside town called Essaouira. We decided to check it out.

It took a long bus ride down the coast to get there. I dozed off and it was night when we finally arrived. As I stumbled off the bus and rubbed my sleepy eyes, I saw a vision I will never forget. The sky was ink black and brimming with the brightest stars I had ever seen. There was a golden-yellow crescent moon hanging low over the whitewashed walls surrounding the little town. It was perfectly silent, except for the gentle sound of distant waves on the shore. This was Essaouira.

After the cacophony of Casablanca, it was a vision of stillness and peace. It was a timeless vision. It was a place Moses or Jesus could have walked by. My heart opened
up to this place. I settled in and spent a couple weeks there.

I had some nice adventures there in Essaouira. One night, one of my friends decided he could make opium by boiling down some poppy bulbs which we could buy in the market. We eventually drank the miserable stuff. I can't say for sure if it really worked, but I do remember dancing and laughing all that night down by the fishing boats.

One day, while sitting and reading in a cafe, I met a really nice Australian guy named Jim Robinson. And he had a CAR! Jim currently lived in Amsterdam and he said he'd be happy to drive me and a few of my friends up there. He even said he could find me a place to stay up there FOR FREE! Well, that closed the deal. Two guys and a girl I was with piled into Jim's funky old Volvo, and we headed north.

(to be continued.....)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Into Africa

We took trains down to the very bottom of Spain, and finally reached the Straits of Gibraltar. Our goal was, of course, every hippie's goal during that romantic era– the enchanted, exotic, ancient land of Morocco.

But as we approached the border crossing, we kept hearing strange rumors. They weren't letting any more hippies into the country. Could all our travels be in vain? I mean, let's face it, we did look pretty much like hippies.

As I stood face to face with the Moroccan border guard, he took one look at me, a scruffy, unshaven, long-haired American kid, and said, "no hippies". I had to think fast.

In my broken French, (in what was, till then, the only really useful result of all my high school French classes) I said "si je vais couper mes cheveux....?" (if I will cut my hair...?). And he seemed to say, it's possible.

So right there in the parking lot, I borrowed someones scissors, and using a car window as a mirror, I cut my hair. Hell, I'd come all that way and there was no way they were gonna keep me out of Morocco. Amazingly, it worked! They let me in! And my wonderful Moroccan adventure began.

(to be continued.....)


Monday, August 17, 2009

Travels In Europe and Africa

When I graduated from music school, I was twenty-one. I left Detroit, the city I'd grown up in, and went to live in Europe for six months. First, I spent about four months in London, working diligently everyday on composition. But the winter was coming on and my money was getting low, so I figured I better head south.

I'll never forget getting on a plane in cold, rainy, dark, and miserable London, and it seemed like about twenty minutes later walking off that plane onto the warm, sunny, brilliantly blue-skied, Majorca, an island off Spain, in the turquoise-blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Wow! I'm sure I must have said to myself, good move, Ross, this is more like it!

Slept in caves in Ibezia (when it was the Isle of Hippies), and had a little romantic adventure in the back of an abandoned school bus on the very first night (which is more than I'd had in my four months in London). Back in Barcelona I met a couple fellow travelers and we headed down the coast of Spain. Destination Morocco, North Africa.

(to be continued....)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dancing at The Teatro Zinzanni

Last Wednesday, my band, The University of Soul, was rehearsing at Secret Studios in San Francisco, and actor/singer Sally Kellerman stopped by. We sang a few songs together and generally had a great time. She invited me to see her perform the following night at the Teatro Zinzanni.

I shared a table there with Henry Marx, the owner of my label, Music Force Media Group, and Robert and Rory, the owners of The RRazz Room. It was a lot of fun, but I made one BIG MISTAKE. I was sitting right next to the stage, and before long, I was literly pulled onto the stage, and in front of several hundred people I had to do a weird, improvised dance with Sally! I basically felt like a complete idiot, but everyone seemed to get a big kick out of it.

But the most amazing thing was the magician in the show. During a break, he came over to my table, took off my glasses, put them on the table in front of me, and proceeded to make them levitate off the table. It was totally unbelievable.

After the show, Henry, Sally and I hung out back stage and met the really fascinating, international circus performers in the show. As I looked around, the whole scene made me feel like I was on the set of a Fellini film....

Lots of love,


Thursday, July 2, 2009

With Sally At The Rrazz

What a fun night! On Monday night, at The Rrazz Room, Sally Kellerman and I performed the duet we had sung on her latest CD, "Sally". It went really well, and afterwards I played piano and sang "Autumn Leaves". I have to admit that I got a terrific audience response. I didn't know how her fans would respond to me, and it was very gratifying.

This was actually the first time I'd seen Sally perform, and I could see that she's a total pro. Her audience really loves her.

The Rrazz Room is a very cool venue. Great acoustics, a big stage, and a nice grand piano. After the show, Sally and I partied in the elegant Hotel Nikko Lounge, which is part of the Rrazz Room. Lots of great conversation and stories. All in all, a night of BIG FUN!



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gigs, Rehearsals, And Movie Stars

It's been a busy couple months. Been doing a lot of solo gigs around the Bay Area, as well as some rehearsing with my trio. Also, just got some new custom-made in-ear monitors. Pretty cool:-) It really does make singing so much easier when you can REALLY HEAR!

This Sunday I'll be rehearsing with singer/actress Sally Kellerman over at my place. And Monday night we'll perform some duets over at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco. Sally and I always have a lotta fun hanging out.

Hugs to all....


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twenty-First Century Toys

After having just finished a largely acoustic CD, Face To Face (2008), with a live rhythm section, I have to admit that lately I've been having a ball with some of my electronic instruments. Mainly my Yamaha Motif XS8 Keyboard and my Drum/Percussion software, the Stylus RMX.

Back in the day, when I was the MIDI guy at Fantasy Studios, the whole digital world was in it's infancy. It was exciting to be at the cutting edge of musical technology, but it was often frustrating (not to say nightmarish) when machines and software were crashing all around me, and anxious clients were looking on.

But baby, we've come a long way since 1986! The machines and software I'm playing with now are so sophisticated, intuitive, multi-faceted and just so incredibly MUSICAL.

The Stylus drum software lets me use actual live drum grooves that have been sliced up into 16th notes so their tempos can be seamlessly sped up or slowed down. It's got a million cool features and it's just so damn fun to play piano against it. The more I learn the software, the more I'm blown away that guys actually invented this thing.

Of course, if I was on a desert island, and could only have one instrument, it would be a nine-foot concert grand piano. (I'm particularly lusting for the nine-foot Yamaha at the Village Recording Studio in L.A.....) But until I'm banished to that island, I'm more than happy to enjoy all that Twenty-First Century Science has to offer.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: John Shelton Ivany - Top 21

Hey guys,

Below is a short review from John Shelton Ivany - Top 21. John has been the editor-in-chief of numerous music magazines over the years including Grooves, Hit Parader, Rock N Soul and Country Song Roundup. Each week he picks 21 of his favorite new releases to showcase and here's what he had to say about Face To Face!

"Re-imagined jazz standards and soulful crooning are Ross's highlights on Face To Face. Solid renditions, interesting approaches....yeah, I think this is another great jazz record."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall 2008, An Update

Hi Guys,

It's been quite a while since my last posting, but a lot has happened since then. Over the summer, I was offered an Artist and Distribution deal with L.A. based Music Force Media Group. Through them, my new CD, Face To Face, will be distributed by Ryko (Warner Bros.). Initially, Music Force will be promoting my CD to Smooth Jazz stations across the U.S, Europe, Australia, and Japan.

In the meantime, in a separate deal, Veteran radio promoter, Don Graham, has begun pitching the Face To Face CD to radio stations and nationally syndicated radio shows that feature the Adult Standard format. And so far, the response has been incredible! We're getting played on hundreds of stations across the U.S.

WHLI (New York, New Jersey), KSGL (Wichita), The Big Band Jump Show (131 stations), WKNY (Kingston, NY), The Joey Reynolds Show (New York City, with 9 million listeners nationwide), WPLM (Boston), The Bill Miller Show (119 stations), The Jim Raposa Show (129 stations), Dick Carr's Big Band Ballads and Blues (Syracuse, Utica), KABI (Abilene KS) are among the stations currently playing songs from my new CD. They're playing my songs in between artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Diana Krall!

And tomorrow, Tuesday the 2ist, I'll be doing a morning interview with Gregg Hunter, the host of the Cable Radio Network, which reaches 11 million homes nationwide.

Another fun thing happened a couple weeks ago. The Academy Award Nominated Actress, Sally Kellerman (who starred in major motion pictures in the 70's and 80's), asked me to sing a duet with her for her upcoming album. We recorded the tracks in Los Angeles with her producer, Val Garay. Val has had tons of hit records, including the 6th biggest selling record OF ALL TIME (Bette Davis Eyes)!! We really had a ball, and after the work was done, we hung out for a few hours, and I wish you could have heard some of the wild Hollywood tales that were told. Some day I'll write about it:-)

Anyway, as you can see, it's been a pretty busy time. It's just the beginning of our marketing campaign, but so far the response is very encouraging.

BTW, The Professor RJ Ross website ( has already been visited by listeners from 26 countries and 123 cities! We'd love to hear from you guys. Please post a comment or send us an email to keep in touch.

Lots of love,


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my website and my blog. We're all very proud of our new website, but we'd love to hear your feedback on it. Pros and cons.

One of the things I'll be doing on this blog is talking about my great passion, music. I'm very interested in all kinds of music and I'm also interested in the ideas and theories behind music, as well as the history and development of musical styles.

I'm also hoping that this blog will be a place where I can get to know more about you, my listeners. I'm always very interested in knowing what impact my music has had on you, and any feelings or thoughts you may have about my music. I'm hoping this will be a place for interactive discussions about music, art, and life in general.

So stay tuned. And please feel free to express yourself. Let's start to build a community of music lovers!