T. Bear released his new album, “The Way of the World,” in March on Quarto Valley Records. The opening single was “A Change Will Do Me Good.”

Born Richard Gerstein in New York City, and raised in the Caribbean, the artist now known as T Bear is a distinctive singer and talented keyboard player who has made his mark as a solo performer and collaborator with many iconic artists — Crosby Stills and Nash, The Blues Brothers, Robby Krieger of The Doors, Edgar Winter, Billy Squier, Cher, as well as Gene Simmons and Peter Criss of Kiss, to name just a few—while also releasing several noteworthy solo albums over the years.

Recently, he has been touring the world with acclaimed blues guitarist Walter Trout as a member of Walter’s band.

He has appeared on numerous recordings by iconic artists, including Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Southern Cross, The Blues Brothers Soundtrack, Richie Havens Mixed Bag II, Kiss members Gene Simmons and Peter Criss’ solo ventures, as well as Toby Beau’s hit single “My Angel Baby,” Billy Squier’s solo debut “Tale of the Tape,” and projects by former Rascals members Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli.  

He would also pen the song “Love and Pain,” one of the standout tracks on Cher’s blockbuster album “Take Me Home.”  He has shared the stage with artists such as Richie Havens, Odetta, the Doobie Brothers, and Jeff Beck, among others.

His new album, “The Way of the World,” was written and recorded as the world emerged from the pandemic. Produced by long-time Grammy®-winning collaborators drummer Tony Braunagel (who has performed, toured, and recorded with a host of big names over the years, including Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, BB King and many others), and former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber, the horn-driven excursions of his previous album, “Fresh Bear Tracks,” were stripped-down to a small group sound, recorded mostly in home studio environments.  

Augmenting this core trio was a selection of bass players, including the legendary Reggie McBride, Hutch Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), and John Mayall-alumnus Ricky Cortez.

The “Way of the World” boasts a stunning set of twelve original songs, written and/or co-written by T. Bear. T. Bear has always excelled at songwriting, and this album showcases his big-time talent in that area.

Musically, the album is a stirring and infectious melodic mix of blues, rock n roll, Americana, and roots music, accented by some occasional touches of tasty soul, jazz, Latin, and funk textures. The songs are a mix of both up-tempo and ballads.   Highlighted by T. Bear’s soulful vocal style, which ranges from raspy to plaintive and moving, the album is a seamless collection of T. Bear’s influences and various talents.

The subject matter runs from the wry humor of “Your Husband’s Got a Gun” and “A Change Will Do Me Good” to the pithy observations of the title song, “The Way of the World,” the Latin-flavored narrative of “Dinner for One,” and the meditative self-reflection of “Breathe.”

Where do you begin with an artist who has such a career? For today, we began in 1978 with the Peter Criss Kiss solo album. I remember myself, as a 15 year old in the early eighties, being a Kiss fan and picking up this album. To be honest, the 15 year old me was not overly impressed with that solo album; it just wasn’t what I wanted from a member of Kiss. However, then and now, one song stood head and shoulders above the rest. That song was “I Can’t Stop the Rain.” T Bear played keyboards on that track, along with “Rock me Baby’ and “Easy Thing.” So as a Kiss fan, this seemed like a good spot to begin our conversation. I would say, as an adult now, when I listen to that album, I like it a bit better than I did as a teenager! But “I Can’t Stop the Rain” remains such a great track. We think that Peter had had a bad accident before that album was recorded as well, meaning he couldn’t play the drums at that time. As a session musician brought in for the song, how much freedom did T Bear have on that song?

T Bear: “I Can’t Stop the Rain” is a great track. And I will have to get into my ‘way back’ machine for this one! But, I do love slipping back to those days. Those were great days for me, not to be equaled again. I was involved with Kiss through a guy called Sean Delaney (who sadly passed away in 2003, aged only 58), a member of the Kiss production and management team. What happened was, Sean Delaney saw me playing in a club in New York; it was one of those magical nights when all the planets were aligned. There were amazing people on stage and great people in the audience too. I had a truly great band at the time, and the other people in the band all went on to have terrific careers in other bands. Sean Delaney kept walking in front of the stage, kind of staring at me. He looked like one of the guys in the Village People, he had this handle-bar moustache, the leather and chains, and all that shit! His hair was greased, and he was staring at me. I really didn’t understand why! When we took a break, he walked over to me to say, “Where did you learn to play like that?” I replied to say that I was born in New York, raised in the Caribbean. I played percussion first. I played Ra-Ra in San-Juan, Puerto Rico and Port-Prince, Haiti. That music was kind of Latin, Creole; a mash-up of music styles. This developed musically, I would play percussion on the piano keys when my parents got a piano, and it was different to play that way. I was playing sixteenths with one hand, eighths with the other! I was mashing up a combination of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Nicky Hopkins. Nicky Hopkins was one of my heroes, he was just an amazing keyboard player, and I used to channel him, and a guy called Leon Russell, Dr. John, was another. Then, in the jazz world, there was Oscar Peterson. It was interesting because I had all these different kinds of things coming together in the soup! Sean Delaney said, “Yeah, but this is rock n’roll, you don’t play it like straight rock n’roll, you play it like road music hitting rock n’roll.” And I told him that was how I heard it. I was then introduced by him to Billy Squire, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss. I never knew Ace Frehley that well, but I met the management team, and the next day I was taken into the office, and Sean told me that we were going to some Kiss gigs, so we went around the country checking out some shows (T. Bear was at the concert filmed for the TV movie ‘Phantom at the Park’). I was asked if I could write for them, and, I said that I could ghostwrite for them. So I did ghostwrite a bit with Gene. Then, during this time, Gene told me that he was going to do an album, and he wanted my band to come over and play on his album. He was doing it in England at ‘The Manor’ and we stayed at ‘The Manor’ for two weeks. He brought his girlfriend at the time, Cher, with him and she was staying there too. We started recording, and it was a really cool band, a load of fun, and there is a picture from one night in London! This was the time when Gene was hiding his face.

We love Gene here at the magazine! There is this image sometimes of him as this money driven soul, but when you meet him, he is an intelligent gentleman, really kind and an absolute professional.

T Bear: Yes, he is not at all like the image. He is a total professional, and that is the way he was with me. You can always hear stories, and sometimes you can catch someone on a bad day, but he was always fine with me.

And the Peter Criss side of things?

T Bear: Well, all of a sudden, Peter Criss gets involved. He says, “Man, if you’re doing Gene’s album, then I want you on mine!” The problem for me was that they were doing the recordings simultaneously, so how could I be in England and in the States at the same time? But he was determined, so as soon as I finished in England, I headed into the studio where Peter was recording, and I went in the studio and listened to a few tracks. Sean Delaney was there, and he tells me there is this one track that is all about the rain! I was asked to play on that. I listened to the bones of the track, walked right in, the piano was there, and I laid it down in one take. It was done in one take, it was magical! You could see everyone in the control room had been moved.

The thing is with Peter, his solo career, to be honest, has never really hit the highs, no matter how you try to gloss it. Yet, two songs, “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and a later track called “New Moon Over Brooklyn,” are right up there with the best. Anyone listening to those songs can’t fail to be impressed, and we listen to a lot of music! It shows what could have been.

T Bear: I agree. I would say this to those who maybe don’t give Peter so much credit or didn’t take him seriously. I would say to them that Kiss are cartoon characters that come to life, they have kabuki make-up; they can be eighty; and you will never see them age. They can play for the rest of their lives. Sean wanted them to be characters that come to life, play great rock n’ roll, and have the best stage show that money could buy at the time. Sean said that he wanted to feature Peter coming out and singing “Beth.” If you hear him do “Beth,” then you know that there is something real about him, he was a real artist and a real drummer. They all got caught up in the hoopla, except maybe Gene and Paul. I actually saw Paul in a Starbucks the other week, we had coffee, and I hadn’t seen him in years. We just sat, and what was going to be a five minute “hello” turned into an hour long talk about the old days. It was beautiful! I have DNA with those guys.

Turning to “The Way of the World” album, we decided to ask about the track “Dinner for One,” which was our favourite from the album. Music is subjective, but it took us into a Madrid, Latin, slow dance mood. It also made us wonder if the Caribbean still influenced the music of T. Bear and how the Latin feel developed on that track?

T Bear: Absolutely, the Caribbean is always a part of my music. There is a back story to the track. I did love Cuban music when I lived in Puerto Rico, I used to go with my parents to nightclubs and was blown away by a Havana band called Los Chavales de España. They were like a thirteen piece orchestra that just knocked my socks off! Then, a few years ago, there was an ensemble called the Buena Vista Social Club. I recommend that everyone watches the 1999 documentary, directed by Wim Wenders. It is all about the Cuban artists from the forties through to their sixties, who are all in their seventies and more at the point of the documentary. When Castro took over, he closed all the hotels and nightclubs and put these artists out of jobs. A bunch of these guys got together and resurrected their careers at the Buena Vista Social Club, where they hung out. They went to Europe to play a gig, maybe in Belgium, and when you listen to their songs, the ballads and the love songs, and they are 80 or 90 years old, translate the words and they are the most beautiful lyrics you will ever hear. They are so romantic. Every track on “Way of the World” is a homage to someone or something, and “Dinner for One” is an homage to the Buena Vista Social Club.


From there, we turn to the 2021 album of mine, “Fresh Bear Tracks,” which arrived when COVID struck. I had previously taken a hiatus from music for around 25 years to raise a family, and I was selling light bulbs door-to-door to raise my family as a day job!  But I raised my family, was married for over 20 years, and then got divorced. I met a girl a few years later, and I remarried. She said to me, “I know who you are, and I have records that you played on in my collection. I appreciate you being the only musician I know who has a day job!” After we married, I was sitting one day watching her do some college work, as she was still studying as an adult in her fifties. She called me to sit at the piano, which was up against her desk. I sat down and began to play, and she wanted me to play a certain song from an album that I played. Then she wanted me to write a song. She said she wanted me to put a band together and record another album. She nagged me for almost two years, and the result was the band: T. Bear and Route 66. It was ex-Wings members, E-Street Horns and guys who played with Leon Russell. It really was ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ in this decade! We had a residency in a bar out in Woodland Hills, and we killed it every Tuesday night with lines down the street! I was doing a session at the studio of Robby Krieger from The Doors, and he came into the control room. He spotted me and said, “T Bear, what’s up?! When are you coming in to do another record?” I told him that I had been out of things too long, I had no label, and my pockets were not so deep. But he told me to wait a moment, on the condition that he play on my record and that I record in his studio, paying the engineer. So, when the studio was not in use, I went in and cut 23 tracks for “Fresh Bear Tracks,” 21 originals. There were also two covers, ‘She’s Not There” by The Zombies, which I do completely differently, and “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum. I love those bands, I grew up with them. So, as I finish that album, my wife’s Nina is feeling bad, and we go to the doctors. She gets a diagnosis of stage four cancer and has 4–6 months to live. I stopped the album to take care of her, she lived almost a year, and just before she died, she wrote me a note to say, “Finish the record, go out on tour, live your best life, fall in love again, and play music.” I have honored her, dedicated that album to her, and the last song on the album is called “Nina’s Song.”  That was the first song I wrote when we were back-to-back that day at the piano. So, now “Dinner for One” comes when I lost her; she has passed, and my house is so silent, it destroyed me. Then COVID hit, and I can’t even leave the house. So I start writing songs because that is what she would want me to do. Oddly enough, I got a record deal when I was not even looking for a record deal. So this record company told me they got great reviews for “Fresh Bear Tracks,” to critical acclaim. The fans still remembered me, but I couldn’t tour due to the pandemic. The call was to make another record, so during COVID I began writing, and for the last few years I had written the lyrics first, then the music, like short stories. Then they become songs. “Dinner for One” is one of my favourite tunes on the album, maybe my favourite as I am a romantic.

It is a lovely track, a standout. It is that warm glow of a Latin evening, the late night bar in Madrid, with the children still playing in the street and the flamenco dancer in the club next door.

T Bear: And the neon blinks from exhaustion, screaming promises of what’s inside, but no-one is watching! It is a movie and an oasis for your mind. So it’s a song about a guy preparing an elaborate dinner, He cuts the flowers low so he can gaze at his lover. He wears his linens, he has his crystals and napkins. It is, sadly, however, a dinner for one. People may feel he is crazy, but that is what he does. And I have had a lot of dinners for one. 

We do express our sadness for the loss suffered. But, we always feel that those we love are with us in our hearts. 

As the next question, we wanted to know why Walter Mitty’s Glasses? (A song title on the album). Why not Gene Simmons’ glasses or President Trump’s glasses? Or whatever, why Walter Mitty?

T Bear: I wrote a short story called Walter Mitty’s glasses as an author. Stories become songs. Walter Mitty is based on the Danny Kay movie, and then it was updated in the Ben Stiller version. So a guy walks into an antique barn with all these kiosks around, and he walks up to the kiosks, some with vintage clothes, some with comic books, and so on. But then one booth has nothing but glasses, and he picks one up, then the next, trying them on, until the third one. When he looks in the mirror with the third set of glasses, someone completely different is looking back at him. This person in the mirror is better looking, handsome and younger. When he takes the glasses off, it is him again in the mirror. So when he asks the shop owner about the glasses, the shop owner notes that someone has come in with a box, and in this case, the glasses, when he checks, are the property of Walter Mitty. When he goes to a party that night, he puts on the glasses, and in his mind, he is the most handsome guy there; he knows that the best looking girl will leave with him. Walter Mitty!

T. Bear was someone who helped set up the ‘Musicians Meeting.’ Now, here at the magazine, we do what we can to support mental health through music. ‘Musicians Meeting’ does important work supporting musicians, and we wondered if T. Bear was still involved with that?   

T. Bear: I am still involved with that. I got involved with that because, back in the seventies, I did have a drug problem. It was a problem at the time, and I was clean and sober in February 1983. That was my sobriety date and I remain that way. So, that being said, we started ‘Musicians Meeting’ because we wanted to try with the late Buddy Arnold, to connect to session musicians and artists that have to deal with drugs around them, but not take it on stage with them. It was to show that you perform better on stage, in the studio, or wherever you are when you are not loaded. It was showing a way to do that. When I went clean and sober, it was not so popular in those days, but that being said, we started MAP (musicians assistance program) and that included nutrition, mental health, habitat and sober living. Today MAP has become ‘music cares.’ It morphed into that; I was on the board for years, and we even had a musician’s picnic to raise money for musicians with no third party insurance and get them into rehab. 

It reminds us of the Roy Castle Foundation here in the UK. Roy Castle, a lifelong non-smoker, played in clubs when smoking was okay. He contracted lung-cancer from secondary smoke and fought for the (at the time unpopular) ban on smoking in indoor public spaces. His legacy remains the ban. 

And there ends a really great chat with T. Bear. After the interview, T. Bear was telling us about some really exciting future music plans, so there is so much for his fans to be excited about. 

As a finishing point, to keep us improving the magazine, we really do need your support, and if you can go to the ‘Support Us’ button and buy us a coffee, it helps us feel appreciated and keep improving the magazine. We also have our merchandise shop, Lorraine, looking great in the gear! Read on, check out our many great features and reviews, and do bookmark us on your pages!

T Bear website:  https://tbear.rocks/

T Bear Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/tbeartracks/

You can stream the new album, and other music, from T Bear here

By Mark C. Chambers


Lorraine Foley

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