Helping found the band Traffic proved to be one of the shortest chapters in veteran guitarist Dave Mason’s long career and one of the most memorable.
The influential British rock band, whose members included keyboardist-vocalist Steve Winwood and drummer Jim Capaldi, recorded just two albums in the late-1960s, before splitting up.
Traffic’s music, including “Mr. Fantasy,” “Hole in My Shoe” and “Feelin’ Alright,” has proved much more enduring, earning the band a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Mason, who performs on Friday, Jan. 3, at Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, went on to form another short-lived outfit, Wooden Frog, and then released a dozen solo albums, with his own hits including “We Just Disagree” and “Only You Know and I Know.”
He also played on records by a who’s-who of rock icons, including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac.
Mason is preparing to release the EP, “Futures Past,” which will include new versions of “Mr. Fantasy” and other catalog material, as well as some tracks from his 2008 album “26 Letters — 12 Notes.”
For his first appearance in Atlantic City in several years, he plans to perform his “Traffic Jam” — a set of Traffic music — along with material from the rest of his career.
He talks about Traffic’s short-lived existence, recording with Hendrix and his own legacy.
Q: What’s it like to revisit the Traffic material?
A: A lot of the tunes that make up the set were written by Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood — they’re the songs I never really played.
I tried to pick out some stand-out pieces that are the most popular — “Rock and Roll Stew,” “Medicated Goo,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”
It’s worth keeping the legacy alive from Traffic. It’s part of my history — it’s how things started with me.”
Q: Do you have any regrets that Traffic was short-lived, or do you think it enhanced the band’s legend?
A: I would have liked for it have gone on, but the personalities weren’t going to let it happen at the time, so I had to do what I did, which was pack up and move to America.
I would have liked it to be a unit, like Crosby, Stills and Nash — individuals could go do their own thing if they wanted to, but it’s great to have some guys to work off.
It’s like anything — if you’re around any people for so long, how can I miss you if you won’t go away?
Q: Is there any chance you would reunite with Steve Winwood?
A: It would be fantastic if Steve were a part of this. I don’t think it’s possible — my overtures in the past haven’t been successful.
I can’t go out as Traffic — that wouldn’t have been right. I gave it a twist on the name, so people have an idea what to expect.
It’s nice to think it could grow into something where other musicians who were big Traffic fans could be involved.
Q: You were like the Forrest Gump of rock musicians of the ’60s and ’70s, having worked with so many great musicians. How did you forge these connections?
A: When I was younger, it felt like why not be around the best you can learn from.
Q: Did get to know them first, or did you just plunge into making music together?
A: Most of those collaborations came from liking the music and then getting to know them. It’s not on a deep relationship level, but for a period of time. There’s a respect there for each person.
Q: What are your memories of recording the classic “All Along the Watchtower” with Jimi Hendrix from his 1968 album, “Electric Ladyland?”
A: Working with Hendrix was just a treat. It was great working with him. You would sit there and go, “Wow.”
He was great. In the studio, he was all work. He was about getting things done and experimenting. He was cutting edge for sure. I got to be around it, and it was great. I was 19 years old.
Q: How is to be on the other end of your career, where your music is inspiring others?
A: I don’t really think about it. It’s flattering to think about it, but I never looked at myself in that way. I’m just another working stiff. I just happen to play music and write songs and I like to think people love.
I’m lucky, and it’s been great.
Mason met the Beatles, befriended George and Paul
For a young Dave Mason and others hanging out in the London music scene in the mid-1960s, you “invariably” were going to run into “someone,” including the Beatles.
Mason’s girlfriend at the time introduced him to Paul McCartney, which led to him getting to know the rest of the band.
After the Beatles’ break up, Harrison asked Mason to play on his “All Things Must Pass” solo record, while McCartney later tapped him for his “Venus and Mars” album.
But one souvenir of his friendship with Harrison, unfortunately, is long gone.
“I was interested in the sitar, and got to know George,” Mason recalls. “George gave me the sitar he first used. Like an idiot, it’s no longer with me –– part of my cavalier youth.”
Did he replace it?
“I couldn’t even sit in that position, let alone play it,” Mason says.