Recently, when I thought (briefly) about selling my ’38 Buick street rod, I came across some interesting photos of when Jeff Beck and Jennifer Batten came to visit my home in New York. It was a deeply solemn time, as he was coming to pay his respects after the accident that took the lives of my wife Deborah and my 14 year old daughter, Gillian. Jeff and I and his management had been just talking days prior to the tragedy about his doing a video for me at Hot Licks. Jeff and I had always been big supporters of each other, and he had always professed his love and respect for my playing, which made me very proud. He was apparently getting ready for his latest tour as well, and he was traveling with Jennifer for that purpose. So it was a kind of sudden surprise that he called me and said he was coming into an airport nearby me, and that he wanted to visit and pay his respects, and express his sympathies.
I remember it being a wonderful meeting, where I struggled to stay focused, since I was still in deep shock and trauma, and Jeff couldn’t have been more of a gentleman. We sat at the kitchen table, sipped some tea, and talked music, and his doing an instructional/documentary-like video for my company, Hot Licks. We also discussed more far-reaching plans such as touring together, (something I still wish would happen!) and recording together as well. He couldn’t have been more gracious and enthusiastic, as he proclaimed, “I only will do the video here at your house Arlen, and it has to be the best!” Then when we eventually got over to the garage so I could show him some cars, he saw my street rod, and said, “that’s it, no advance for the video, just pay me with the Hot Rod!” He was joking of course, but it was a warm and friendly visit, where such banter flowed freely and with a bittersweet kind of humor. The air, after all, was still heavy with the grief and shock I felt, and this was the kind of visit I really needed from a friend and an admirer.
This was in March of 1998, and the video shoot at my home had been scheduled for May. All the details had been worked out, but for some reason, at the last minute, Jeff had to cancel out. This left me with several days of recording already booked, and I had to make something happen with the time and crew I had already paid for. So, I decided to make “lemonade out of lemons” and picked up my guitar for the first time in 3 months, and went on to record a 6-tape boxed set called “Acoustic Guitar A-Z”, as well as “Country String-Bending”. The great Jimmy Bruno was also gracious and came up and did a wonderful 2-tape boxed set for me called “No Nonsense Jazz Guitar.”
So, even though it all ended rather abruptly, I still cherish these memories, and look forward to hopefully working with Jeff in the future, and to continuing our “mutual admiration society!” At least we can go hot rodding together one of these days!