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Nyack Sketch Log: Jeff Rubin Takes a Nip O’ Scotch

by Bill Batson

In a village that is arguably the live music capitol of the region, Jeff Rubin was one of the liveliest acts! “So has COVID-19 stopped the show?” you might ask. Nip O’ Scotch, a weekly Facebook Live event, is Rubin’s way of delivering a resounding answer: No!

Known as a human jukebox with an encyclopedic memory of the rock n’ roll song book, Rubin meets his fans online every Thursday, regaling those assembled in the chat with his talent, generosity, and razor sharp wit. If you ask for a tune that he doesn’t know, Jeff will learn it for the following week. Just don’t request any thing from Jimmy Buffet, The Eagles, or Van Morrison!

How many songs do you know?

I don’t know how many songs I know. If I can recall an image in my mind of how the music went (and that goes back to childhood) I can usually bring it to my hands.

Who started calling you a human jukebox?

I worked on Carnival Cruise Lines for 4 years, and after seeing me perform, a woman hired me to play a Hot Air Balloon Fest. It was around ’93 and she billed me as “The Human Juke Box.” Before that it was, “Encyclopedia.”

What was the first song you learned?

“Traveling Band” by CCR. I started on bass guitar.

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What was the first song that you wrote?

“Swimmin’ in Women”

First axe?

A Teisco Del Ray bass.

What was your biggest band?

Every Thursday Take a Nip O’ Scotch with Jeff Rubin

Until we can enjoy our music live again, many have found new virtual venues. Jeff Rubin hosts Nip-O Scotch every evening at this link.

You’ll find a chat room full of familiar Nyack names, requesting songs and engaging in grown-up banter.

If you ask for a tune that is not in his memory banks, Jeff will learn it for the following week. Jeff starts sipping Scotch at 8:30p. Lubricated music soon after.

Standing in for the tip jar, Paypal and Venmo!

Don’t know how to quantify that. I got to play with Chuck Berry, Danny Elfman, and Oingo Boingo. While acting as live recording engineer for Dhani Harrison (son of George), I got to sing lead on “Give Me Love” with the concert for Bangladesh Band, and sang “Here Comes The Sun” as well. Oh yeah, it was big for me to play with Davy Jones too!

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Who was your first music teacher?

Martin Friedman at Margetts Elementary School.

With Misfits bassist Jerry Only.

What’s a first lesson like with you today?

As a teacher, I try to bond with the students, ask their expectations, give them basics to get them “over the hump” that guitar presents, so that they may have facility to play some music they like.

When did you start building amps?

I started building guitar effect pedals about a year after my mom died, in 2005. It was the only therapy that helped me from the depression of losing her. There’s a site called B.Y.O.C. (Build Your Own Clone) that sells fantastic kits of vintage pedal circuits where I got my first kit. In a year I was a moderator on their forum, and in 2 years I had a booth at the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.

Recently, I’ve launched “Jeff Rubin Electronics.” I’ve been building my own designs of vintage styled amps, circa the ’40s and ’50s with octal tubes. Having repaired old Fender and Gibson amps, I started experimenting and came up with the Bastard of the Universe line.

I’ve also developed a line of bass amplifiers with tube front end and Class D back end. Did a wonderful B15N that way, the “Aunt Peg,” and a 2 Tube Direct Box for recording bass, synthesizers, and other instruments that you can plug directly into.

Bassist, producer, and original American Idol judge Randy Jackson.

What is your favorite song that people request?

Anything that challenges me and my memory. I have a tough time with the concept of ‘favorite.’ There is so much wonderful stuff in and of itself.

What is your least favorite request?

In no particular order, “Margaritaville,” “Hotel California,” “Brown Eyed Girl.”

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What was your favorite gig?

First time I played Madison Square Garden with The Duprees. I was 25 and felt like I owned NYC.

Did you really fix Toni Braxton’s computer?

Installed software (music) and did maintenance.

Do you play any of her music?

Not opposed to it. “Unbreak My Heart” is wonderful. Wrong chromosomes.

The Jeff Rubin Trio, with Oingo Boingo Drummer Johnny Vatos Hernandez on drums.

Is there anything you won’t play?

Can’t play it if I haven’t heard it, or if there’s no chart. Only 2 kinds of music. Good music, and Bad music. Genre isn’t a factor here, either.

Favorite concert you played?

1987 Spring Break, Fort Lauderdale. Frankie Avalon, Connie Stevens, The Regents. 100,000 people, needed a police escort to get to the beach, met Jaco Pastorius!

Favorite concert you attended?

I have a hard time with favorites. Sade, Gypsy Kings, Beth Hart, Eric Gales (the newer one).

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In what ways is the music biz different today than when you started?

Every way. Technologically, monetarily, stylistically… yet the bar does get raised on the shoulders of prior generations as it should be. I am an old gladiator, still proud, with a war that is over. I guess now I’m a library.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Jeff Rubin Takes a Nip O’ Scotch” © 2020 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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