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Portland percussionist performed with Joe Cocker on the 'Mad Dog and Englishmen' tour and live album - it's on film

COURTESY PHOTO: BOBBY TORRES - Bobby Torres had a memorable stretch of playing bongos behind Joe Cocker, including at Woodstock and on the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour.Longtime Portland resident Bobby Torres has a lot of fond memories from his time with legendary rocker Joe Cocker, and some memories bring him to tears.

In the aftermath of Woodstock in 1969, during which the percussionist played bongo drums as part of Cocker's band, Torres stayed with the singer and played on the famous "Mad Dog and Englishmen" tour and live album, and he also appeared in the documentary by the same name.

Torres remembers Cocker apologizing to him after they watched a screening of the documentary together, wishing he had more exposure in it. "I was totally in shock, sitting next to this guy and watching it on screen, couldn't believe that I was friends with him," Torres said. "That's the kind of guy he was.

"It changed everything in my life. After that movie, I was recognized left and right in LA."

The memories came back with the release of another film, a documentary called "Learning to Live Together," a tribute of "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." Torres had been invited to participate in a 2015 concert in West Virginia by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi — of the Tedeschi Trucks Band — and it turns out the invitation had everything to do with production of the documentary.

Directed by Jesse Lauter, the project brought together all the remaining members and associates of Cocker's band, and Torres reunited with the likes of Leon Russell, Claudia Lennear, Rita Coolidge, Pamela Poland, Dan and Matt Moore, Bobby Jones and Chuck Blackwell.

"It turned out to be an emotional trip for me down memory lane," Torres said.

The movie premiered in Los Angeles, and now it'll be shown in Portland, 4 p.m. Sunday Jan. 23 at Cinema 21. Torres and Lauter will answer questions after the film.

"I thought it was great," said Torres, who attended the LA premiere. "I was surprised, actually. We just played the gig, and I didn't know who (the filmmakers) were, I had no idea. They were very nice. I didn't know they were making a theatrical movie. … They let me know, and paid me for it, so they paid me twice (for performing and movie)."

Torres would get emotional during the reunion. He remembers being in rehearsals for "With a Little Help from My Friends,' and running off the stage and bawling.

"I had no idea it'd affect me that way," he said, of the reunion. "When I was being interviewed, I started bawling. They caught emotional moments."

Cocker and his fellow musicians at the time made a big impact on Torres.

Trucks' demeanor and Tedeschi's singing reminded him of Cocker.

"They are good people," Torres said. "During the pandemic, they paid their whole band a salary."

Meanwhile, Torres, 78, has stayed busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has played some gigs and recorded some songs, even helped friends put out CDs from his Northeast Portland home studio.

"So far, so good," he said. "I'm still breathing."


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