TORONTO — After more than 30 years as bandleader for NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" and CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman," Paul Shaffer found it difficult to settle into retirement.
Not so difficult that he decided to grow an outrageously shaggy beard like his former boss, of course, but he was certainly restless.
"It's formidable, the beard," Shaffer chuckles in a recent phone interview from New York.
"It's no secret that Dave has a side of him that some might call perverse and the more people around him, family members, you can only imagine what they must be thinking about that beard. The more they would hate it, the more he would love it."
The Toronto-born, Thunder Bay, Ont.-raised musician still maintains close ties with the old "Late Night" crew, and says it didn't take much to reunite his powerhouse entourage, The World's Most Dangerous Band, to record an album.
Their eponymous release features guest appearances by Shaffer's pal Bill Murray, along with Valerie Simpson, Dion, Darius Rucker and Shaggy. A North American tour begins April 1 in New York with stops including Niagara Falls, Ont., on April 20 and Ottawa on May 3.
Shaffer spoke with The Canadian Press by phone from New York to discuss hitting the road again.
CP: I get the sense you're not one who can retire easily.
PS: It just did get very depressing and I realized I need to keep playing the piano, you know. When I got this call from the legendary Seymour Stein, the great record man, record executive, who said, 'Would you like to get back in the music business and make a record?' I just jumped at the chance. And getting the old band back together from Letterman was fun because we really played so well together. We were like a guerilla war team, a special ops of rock-and-roll for all those years. And we did fall right back into it and had a very fun time with a lot of laughs making this record.
CP: Which vocalist will come with you on tour?
PS: The great Valerie Simpson is coming with me. This is like a dream come true for me. Not only did I idolize her as a writer when I was a kid, because with her late husband Nick (Ashford) she wrote "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand," "You're All I Need to Get By", oh my goodness, "Let's Go Get Stoned," for Ray Charles. So many classics....
Anyway, when she said she would do this tour, it's like, I just flashed back to when I was at U of T (University of Toronto), from where I graduated in about '71, and her first solo album came out on which she played gospel piano and I had never heard anything like it. I froze in my tracks and I used to slow down that record and really study that style. It was the first sort of inroad that I was able to hear into that stone gospel style of piano that she could play. She is an amazing musician, singer as well as writer. And is inspired and wants to get out on the road. So if ever I complain about the length of the plane trip, I just look towards her — she's not complaining about anything. She's a real inspiration.
CP: Any chance of convincing Bill Murray to appear at any of the shows?
PS: He might be in Morocco, for all I know. That cat swings wild on an international level. I'm glad that he surfaced long enough to spend an afternoon with me in the recording studio, during which he worked really hard, by the way, on his vocal. Putting it under the microscope and wanting to just sound really musical. Because although he loves to sing, he's often doing it for comedic purposes. But he did take after take and really wanted it to be right.
— This interview has been edited and condensed
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press