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Stage to screen: Reuniting Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Entourage Talent owner Wayne Forte tells the story of new documentary Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs and Englishmen

04 Feb 2022

Entourage Talent founder and owner Wayne Forte is one of the producers of new documentary/concert film Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which charts the 2015 reunion of the legendary band. Here, the ILMC stalwart reveals how the electrifying project came to pass…

The original plan was to perform a special event show at the Lockn’ Festival in Arrington, Virginia. The idea was to have the band perform a Tedeschi Trucks Band set one day, and a special collaborative show with an- other well-known artist the other day.

We reached out to Joe Cocker to front the band, performing a Mad Dogs & Englishmen set. Getting Joe to sit in with the band for  a few songs is something we had tried to do on a number of occasions, with no prior success. We were then told that we would have an answer from the Cocker camp in a short while. A few months later, it was announced that he had passed away.

The band, manager, festival promoter and I decided to move ahead with the plan as a tribute to Joe Cocker, with the idea of finding someone to take his place. After months of searching high and low, there was no one that could do that so we then decided to use various ‘guests’ and have Susan Tedeschi sing some of the songs as well.

We began enlisting various guests – Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Dave Mason to sing Feelin’ Alright, Warren Haynes, Jon Bell from Widespread Panic, etc. However, when the promoter asked if it would be alright to reach out to Leon Russell, who had supported Tedeschi Trucks Band on occasion that’s when the floodgates began to open. I was and am a big fan of Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Leon Russell – it seemed we could create something big.

I suggested he see if Rita Coolidge was still working, if he could find Claudia Lennear, who I had heard was retired, and contact Chris Stainton, who Derek [Trucks] had played with when he toured with Eric Clapton. Before we knew it, we had 12 of the original Mad Dogs, along with the 12-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band!

“The biggest challenge was raising the funds – all of which was done independently”

I originally suggested to the band’s manager that we film the show just in case something magical happens. Unfortunately, the cost of doing so on that scale and on short notice was prohibitive. We scrambled to try and get it organised and then settled for two remote handhelds and the footage from the festival livestream, which the festival producer agreed to allow us to have, with certain provisos, in the hope that we could do something special with it. It started out as a live concert film/DVD but blossomed into the actual feature length result through the vision of the director, who put together the outline to tell the story.

The biggest challenge was raising the funds – all of which was done independently by me and the band’s manager, my co-producer – with some assistance from the director. We initially tried making a deal with various streaming and video-on-demand services but none quite understood the vision. Meanwhile, we have already had some fantastic reviews and a number of accolades from independent film festivals.

The actual project took six years from the end of the festival show until we were able to screen the finished product. The second tallest mountain to climb was getting all the clearances/licence for the archival footage and music involved. There are 64-plus songs and loads of archival footage throughout.

There are too many scenes to single out as my favourite. Having said that, I think the end is very powerful. We have been booking it into independent cinemas here in the US and quite a few have already booked return screenings. Our ultimate goal is to have it seen by as many people as possible. In the words of Susan Tedeschi, we need to tell the story so people know… We are currently looking to make an individual or a worldwide streaming/VOD deal to make it available to the masses.

I have been very pleased with the reaction to the film so far. However, I set high bars for myself and everything I do. Therefore, enough is never enough! And again, it is about having as many people as possible see it. There was a lot of love that went into its creation! I have been having conversations regarding other potential film projects, though it is way too soon to discuss.


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