Glen Bui of Magic Carpet Ride at the Parkshore Marina near Seward Park. Magic Carpet Ride will be playing at Des Moines Beach Park Meadow on July 4th to raise money for the Parks and Rec department.
Taking a ride with Magic Carpet Ride
Magic Carpet Ride, a band consisting of original members from Steppenwolf and Pegasus, will be performing to raise money for the city of Des Moines on July 4th
By Tim Clifford
Few songs are as instantly recognizable and steeped in varying iconography as Steppenwolf’s 1968 hit “Born to be Wild”. So when Glen Bui, the guitarist for the band Magic Carpet Ride, says that they have recorded a new and improved version that will be released later this summer one immediately wonders how it could be done.
“We made it more sexy, more grooving, you move to it better. We slowed it down a bit and gave it the Seattle sound” describes Bui of the new version that he and Magic Carpet Ride have concocted.
Bui, 56 and a transplant to the Pacific Northwest from the San Francisco Bay area in the 1980’s, toured and played keyboards for the original Steppenwolf and was a founding member of the band Pegasus. After obtaining the rights to perform and record the group’s greatest hits from Steppenwolf Productions Bui and Steppenwolf founding member Goldie McJohn formed Magic Carpet Ride, named after another notable Steppenwolf single, here in the Seattle area.
Performing at Des Moines Beach Park Meadow on the 4th of July at 6 p.m. and hoping to kick off a national tour after the release of the revamped “Born To Be Wild” single, proceeds from the show will go to funding scholarships for kids through the City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation department.
“We’re doing it right now for the fans, giving it back to the fans” says Bui of the band’s desire to keep Steppenwolf’s music alive and touring.
Joining the group on stage will also be a couple of local talents including Doug Benjamin, a manager at the Parkshore Marina in Seward Park, on saxophone and Mark Mayberry, a local singer, performing lead vocals. “He’s really talented and adds a lot to the band. What’s unusual about it is that Goldie has been really particular about things and he really likes him playing sax along with it” explains Bui of Benjamin’s talents.
The discovery of Mayberry was much like something out of the movies. “I walked into a club one night and this phenomenal voice was coming out of the TA and I told my wife “who is this” and I saw the guy was on his hands and knees in this pose singing this pretty intense song” describes Bui of the first time he heard Mayberry sing. Offering Mayberry a chance to audition for the band Bui and McJohn both felt he was a perfect fit and asked him to join them and even sing on the new version of “Born to Be Wild”. “You don’t usually find that kind of talent around here locally; it doesn’t usually just come to you that easily so we are really lucky” says Bui.
“I am just so honored hand over fist to be playing with such talented musicians such as these guys” says Benjamin of the 4th of July show.
To be sure the group boasts an impressive roster of professional classic rock musicians. McJohn is credited with being a true pioneer of the use of the Hammond B3 in rock and roll music and was with Steppenwolf from the very beginning. “He’s in the top 20 of the greatest keyboard players of all time” describes Bui of McJohn.
“We legally can’t call it Steppenwolf but we really are Steppenwolf” explains Bui of the band’s decision to go with the name Magic Carpet Ride. Steppenwolf became mired in legal disputes throughout the 70’s and 80’s from its members making it so that no one can legally perform under the name “Steppenwolf” (while original lead singer John Kay has toured as “John Kay and Steppenwolf” even he is not allowed to perform under the sole title “Steppenwolf”).
“This is as authentic as you’re going to get” says Bui.
The enduring legacy of that one single, one of many of Steppenwolf’s classic hits, still resonates today. One recent story during a video shoot and impromptu concert at the mansion home of an Alice In Chains band member the band found themselves taking over the proceedings when they announced they would be playing the classic tune. “You play that one song and the whole place goes freaking nuts. When we were done playing “Born to Be Wild” it looked like a bomb had gone off and then people were recovering from it” describes Bui.
“I can play “Born to Be Wild” backwards. I really can. I can start from the end and go back” laughs Bui of how many times he has played the song over the years.
But the band sees the popularity of this one song as a gateway to other things. As Bui explains “It’s the magic behind it and it really helps to bring awareness, so when we want to raise money for a cause we’ve got the power of that name behind it”.