Jim Cregan was once in a group that piqued Elton's interest. Years later, the songwriter and musician was in Farm Dogs with Bernie Taupin. Now he has completed his autobiography and offered Eltonjohnworld.com a preview. . .
EJW: Your current band, Cregan & Co., plays songs that you wrote, recorded and produced with Rod Stewart, who penned the foreword for your autobiography, And On Guitar . . . Didn't you receive an award for one of these compositions?
JC: Yes, I have three ASCAP awards for outstanding writing. They are: Forever Young, Tonight I’m Yours and Passion. Rod was nominated for a Grammy for his vocal on Forever Young.
EJW: What do you consider to be other highlights of your book?
JC: It is generally a series of anecdotes. David Niven, the actor, wrote a book called “The Moon’s a Balloon.“ My hope is to have some of that appeal. I have been so fortunate to have worked alongside many talented and hilarious artists, especially Elton and Rod. So the primary aim of the book is to bring a smile to your face.
EJW: You've written with Bernie Taupin, when you were both in Farm Dogs. What was he like to work with?
JC: Bernie is God’s gift to melody writers. He has this uncanny ability to place the right sounding words at the crucial places in the chorus. Lyric writing is not poetry. It’s more difficult. The vowel sounds, the way the words sound in your mouth are vitally important.
In addition to this, Bernie’s imagery and incredible gift for storytelling means that you, as a melody writer have your job made so easy by this exceptionally talented man.
On a few occasions, while we were writing 30 or 40 songs for Farm Dogs, my melody idea would overshoot the amount of lyric he had written. I should point out Bernie always writes the lyrics first. I was a little nervous the first time I suggested we might need to extend a line or 2 to accommodate the melody I had in mind. He could not have been more gracious or accommodating. He would maybe step outside, or sit in the corner and in 10 or 15 minutes he would have the perfect extra lyric. Lesser writers have been quite grumpy should you suggest any changes.
As I said, God’s gift.
EJW: You have also gotten to know Elton John. Did you perform together or did you tour together?
JC: Both. In the early 70s I was in a band called Family. Elton liked us and offered us a 13 week tour of the United States, opening for him in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. Inevitably we got to know each other quite well and it was on this tour that I became friends with Bernie. On one occasion, Davey Johnstone was unwell and Elton performed without him. On the encore, a Chuck Berry song, I got up and played guitar. What a great band! Years later, when I was performing with Rod in South Africa, Elton got up and sang with me on my mike. There is a picture of this in my book. He is wearing a pith helmet. As you do...
EJW: Weren't you just 14 when you formed your first band? And wasn't it an old ukulele that made you want to get into the music business?
JC: Yes, my uncle gave me an old ukelele, with only one string. For some reason I was fascinated by picking out melodies on it. . . . Sometime later we got the rest of the strings but my interest in single note work started me off as a budding lead guitarist. It was ages before I learned any chords. I am still really comfortable taking solos and my best work is always when I don’t really know what key I’m in and let one note lead organically to the next.
And On Guitar . . . will be published in the beginning of June. It can be pre-ordered here: