January 21, 2016 by Helen Borgers


 Photo courtesy of Chris Garcia


“If you have people yelling at you all the time -- on the radio, with talk-shows, sports, news, commercials – no wonder people are driving nuts! Road rage, and so on. We need more music!”


“When I’m performing, I ask my audience, ‘how many times do you go to the super market and no one smiles?  Do you know how ugly you are when you don’t smile?’ I’m afraid we’ve got an epidemic of ugly in this country. We need more music.”


 Photo courtesy of Chris Garcia

Doug is doing his part. He’s writing songs, singing, and playing guitar. He’s on tour most days of the year, performing his acoustic blues throughout the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Europe. And he’s teaching, too! He’s found he loves to teach. He’s going back in August to Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch for the Guitar Camp (Remember Jorma, from the Jefferson Airplane? He’s been running a guitar camp in Ohio for years! Info at: Doug feels keenly the march of Time, and says, “Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, and others of my generation… we learned from the old guys – once we go, there won’t be anyone to tell the stories or philosophies.” So, he is doing what he can to pass it on, through his music, his stories, and his teaching.


Doug is quick to acknowledge the help and wisdom he has received over the years from his mentors, and sometimes from players he didn’t even know!


He was in the Navy in 1966-67, and when he got out, he wanted to go to the Berklee School of Music. But it was hard to get in if you didn’t read or write music. You had to have an established musician write a letter of recommendation for you in order for the school to consider you. Doug heard that Don James was playing in town and was said to be a close friend of Oliver Nelson’s. So, Doug went out to meet him, told him he wanted to get into Berklee, and James invited him to come back to sit in with the band, so James could hear him.  Fortunately, James chose to play “Sunny,” in a familiar key, a tune Doug knew well. Doug sounded good and James wrote the letter for him and he was accepted at Berklee. (Doug said later it might have been a different story if James had chosen “All the Things You Are!”)


Photo Courtesy of Chris Garcia

At one point, Doug thought he wanted to be a jazz guitarist. He had been playing acoustic blues in coffee houses while he was in the Navy, and one day a friend gave him a Kenny Burrell album, Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas. And Kenny became his idol. The Blues: The Common Ground came out about that time, and Doug gave up playing acoustic guitar for awhile.


Doug was playing with Joe Pass one night. They were playing “Satin Doll.” Doug was nervous, and started playing a lot of notes, and Joe asked him what he was doing! Joe said, “Can’t you play what you feel?” Doug played a D-minor 7, and Joe SANG something in an A-flat scale over it. Joe said, “If you can’t sing it, don’t play it.” Which reminded Doug of what Ernie Banks once told him, when Doug was 19 or 20. He said, “Never play a note you don’t believe.” And now Doug tells his students, “Taste and space. When in doubt, leave it out.”


As a guitarist, Doug has performed with George 'Harmonica' Smith, Big Joe Turner, Pee Wee Crayton, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Lowell Fulson and Big Mama Thornton.  Songs he has written have been covered by many artists, including Albert King, Albert Collins, and Joe Louis Walker. He has co-written songs with Dave Alvin and Coco Montoya. But in the last few years, Doug has really come into his own.


Every year, The Blues Foundation, an international organization, presents The Blues Music Awards, universally recognized as the highest honor accorded blues music performers. Last year, Doug MacLeod was awarded both Acoustic Artist of the Year and Acoustic Album of the Year (for There's a Time). This year, he has been nominated in THREE categories! Acoustic Artist of the Year, Acoustic Album of the Year (for Exactly Like This), and Song of the Year: “You Got It Good (and That Ain’t Bad),” written and performed by Doug MacLeod.


Also, over the years, Doug has amassed a huge following over seas. He regularly tours the U.K., Europe, and Canada. “Folks are pretty much the same the world over.  They all want to find love, they’re losin’ love, they need a job, want to laugh, want to be happy, want to take care of their families…”  Doug’s aim is to make his audiences laugh, cry, think, and most of all, feel.  We need more music!

Doug will be performing with bassist Denny Croy on January 30th at Lucille's in the Towne Center in Long Beach (7411 E. Carson St.), from 7 to 11pm.

Doug will also perform at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica (3101 Pico Blvd.) on March 26th at 8pm. 

More information is available at:


On-air personality, Helen Borgers, can be heard on KJazz 88.1 FM from 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. As a jazz broadcaster, Helen has been invited to give pre-concert lectures at various performing arts centers, served on panels in jazz conventions all over the world, and lectured about the history of jazz in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She has also written articles for international jazz publications and regularly emcees concerts, festivals, and club dates throughout southern California.

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