This time, Pat Travers is doing it his — and his son’s — way.
During his 40 years in the rock ’n’ roll music business, he’s tried almost everything else.
“It’s the never-ending challenge of it all,” said Travers, a hard-rock guitar player who’s also a devotee of Ludwig van Beethoven. “I’m not satisfied yet. I haven’t made the record or written that really, really ‘perfect’ piece of music I’ve been striving for.”
He and son Elijah are in complete control of dad’s new project.
Because “I’m good at it and I like doing it,” Travers, 62, still tours with regularity. Which brings him to Tracy’s Grand Theatre on Friday. Davey Pattison, 70, a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter, joins him.
Travers, a self-taught guitarist who’s released 46 albums — rarely realizing any remuneration — now is taking the YouTube route.
His new “Racing the Storm” is being crafted as a video by Elijah, 20, a “whiz kid” with video.
“Initially, it was gonna be an instrumental based on a Beethoven chord,” Travers said. “A little unusual. It’s an ‘in-a-hurry’ song. On horseback, racing through mud. No, that’s not me. I’m narrating.”
Travers still doesn’t know who owns the “mechanical” rights to his music and recordings. He had no awareness of “Feelin’ Right (the Polydor Albums 1975-1984)," a 10-disc box set released by “Imports.”
“(They) don’t own the copyrights,” Travers said. “So, I might get some publishing money after 2½ years or so. I’m not even in the loop. I try not to think about it too much.”
All the “import” did was compete with “Retro Rocket,” Travers’ own 2015 release: “It’s a cool little record. Very basic. I really enjoyed it.”
Having been routinely ripped off as a teenage musician, Travers appreciates any empowerment the internet provides.
“You put a video on YouTube," he said. “If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not. But it’s not just local. It’s worldwide. They can see it in Stockholm (Sweden). You pay CD Baby $55 and you’re off to the races. You own 100 percent of what you get.
“In a lot of ways, it’s better,” he said, while “lamenting the passing of the actual album cover artistic palette. With CDs, you need a magnifying glass. “They’re horrible-sounding. MP3s haven’t really improved the audio: 90 percent of the (sonic) data is gone.”
Born in Toronto, “seeing the Beatles when I was 9 years old really kind of lit me up,” Travers said. At 12, the family moved to Ottawa, where an uncle owned a music store.
He found an old Stella guitar “collecting dust” in the basement. He showed his nephew a few basics, including a boogie-woogie tuning. Travers learned the rest from instruction books.
At 14, with brother Kevin playing bass, they formed a trio that played in a church basement.
Dad Joseph, from Ireland, was wounded while flying bombers for England’s Royal Air Force during World War II. Mom Catherine, from England, was his nurse on Malta. Joseph sold heavy construction equipment and mom remained in nursing after the family returned to Toronto.
“I just kept at it,” Travers said of his guitar evolution. “By 16, I knew this is what I was gonna do. I left school as soon as I could. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school. I’m very curious. I read a lot of books.”
He also played plenty of music. Six nights a week in bars and clubs: “I listened to them all. I never was fanatically obsessed with one musician.”
One night, Ronnie Hawkins — a bandleader from Huntsville, Arkansas, who was revered by Canadians — heard the 19-year-old Travers playing at a club. Travers became a somewhat awestruck member of the “bearded, bigger-than-life” Hawkins’ band for a year. He then moved to London, forming a band in 1975. “Pat Travers,” his first album, appeared in 1976.
“You’re 21 and you’ve been struggling since you were 15,” Travers said. “All of a sudden, you get some attention. Your dreams are about to come true. Then, they put a 32-page contract in front of you, You have a ‘manager’ who’s been stabbing you in the back since ‘day one.’ ”
Now, he can manage his own vocal quartet: Dad, Elijah, sister Amanda, 22 — "she sings like an angel” — and wife Monica. “We have a backing vocal thing. Four-part harmonies,” Travers said.
Royalty rip-offs or not, he keeps making music.
“I always enjoy the energy level of reaching down deep and playing,” said Travers, who’s lived in Florida since 1980. It’s not easy to get those screaming high notes. Sometimes, I feel like just reclining on a nice deck, enjoying view and listening to the music in my mind.”
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.