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  • Alvin Lee

    Posted August, 2012

    It’s been forty-four years since the Alvin Lee and Ten Years After battalion of the British invasion of the U.S. took place.  In fact, it was forty-three years ago this month that Mr. Lee and the band made their history-making six song performance at the Woodstock festival.  It was there that he famously introduced the bands song, I’m Going Home, by saying, “I’m going home . . . by helicopter”.

    Since those days, there have been many tours, bands and albums.  How many albums? Alvin told me, “I honestly don’t know. Twenty or thirty, I guess.”

    Whether it’s the 20th or the 30th, Lee’s soon-to-be-released album, Still On The Road To Freedom, delivers the same level of musical excellence that he did when first landed on our shores those many years ago.  It was because of this album that I had the privilege and opportunity to ask Lee a few questions about the album and music in general.  I found it especially interesting that the interview with this rock and roll icon marks the 100th interview for Boomerocity as well as the weekend of the 43rd anniversary of Woodstock.  Neither was planned. It just happened that way.

    I mentioned to Alvin that, in the liner notes he wrote that the thirteen songs were taken from a batch of 33 songs he had written since the release of his last album, Saguitar.  I was curious as to what the decision-making process to cull out those great tunes from such a body of work that, undoubtedly, contained equally as great of work.

    “It’s a process of evolution. As I work on each track, I will maybe try another vocal, another bass or guitar, maybe change the words - whatever I feel it needs. Some of the tracks improve as I do this, some don’t, and some are best left in their original form so as they evolve it becomes apparent which ones are going somewhere.  Apart from having a good basic song that is saying something, I am looking for a rhythm or feel that inspires me to play interesting solos and fills.”

    With so many albums under his belt, I asked Alvin how was this album different for him to record than his first album, Ten Years After, and what is easier and harder now.

    “What’s easier now is I just do what I feel and don’t have to explain or justify to anybody what I’m trying to do. The only harder thing is deciding what it is I want to do.  With Ten Years After, it was a story of lies, deceit, clashing egos, and backstabbing but you wouldn’t be interested in that.”

    Artists can never (or won’t) pick a favorite song from their work.  It’s always seen almost like a parent picking a favorite child.  I knew that Lee couldn’t pick a favorite song from this album but I asked him if he were to pick one as a “calling card”, if you will, that would sell people on wanting to buy the whole album, which song would he pick?

    “I suppose it would be the title track, but I don’t think there is any one track that represents the whole album. It’s all about variation and visiting my influences over the years.”

    With a career that spans seven consecutive decades, Alvin has seen and weathered a lot of changes in the music industry.  What have been the biggest changes, positive and negative, in the music business, which he has witnessed?

    “From my perspective, I miss the major record companies from the good old days (late 60’s). They used to send limos for you and shower you with gifts and generally show you a good time. That was when there was lots of money flying around and everybody was happy. Also there was an element of adventure.  It was all new and there were no rule book to follow. You had to make them up as you went along.

    “FM radio stations used to have one usually stoned out guy doing the whole thing and we would walk in and start playing our favorite records and rapping for hours. These days it’s got so corporate they have administrators and programmers and the DJs can’t even play what they want. It’s all about advertising and making money. Where is the groovy DJ who just plays good music?”

    One question I’ve asked many veteran artists is: If you were made the music czar, what would you do to change the business, or would you?  Lee’s answer didn’t surprise me in the least.

    “To be honest, I have never been interested in the business side of music. To me, they just don’t mix. I’ve met with Clive Davis and Ahmet Ertegun and the further I am away from all that the better.”

    With the wealth of accomplishments behind him, I wondered what hasn’t Alvin Lee done or accomplished yet that he still would like to do.  His response was short and to the point.

    “Go to south India and make an album in Chicago with local musicians.”

    Lee has jammed with some of the biggest names in music history. I was curious if there was anyone who he hasn’t jammed with whom he wishes to.

    “Not really, I’ve been very lucky and jammed with most of my heroes and great players. I’ve even jammed with Damon Hill. Chuck Berry is someone I’ve never jammed with but it’s often disappointing meeting your heroes and with Chuck it could be damn right dangerous.  They said the same of Jerry Lee, but I got on with him real fine during the London sessions.”

    As we were wrapping up our chat, I asked the Woodstock and rock and roll veteran what was up next for him this year and in the next few years.

    “I’ve got a few festivals and I’m already writing new material for whatever my next project turns out to be. The songs will lead me in the right direction although I still don’t know where they come from.”

    And the next the next five years?

    “To continue surprising myself and to write the world’s greatest riff.”

    I had time for one more question so I asked Alvin how he hopes to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

    “Who knows? Who cares? I only hope somebody doesn’t make a cheesy movie of what they think was my life with Justin Bieber playing me as a young boy.”

    Then, in an ever-so-slightly more serious tone, he added, “Remember me as a guitarist who raised a few eyebrows, that’s good enough.”

    You can keep up with Alvin Lee as he “travels the road to freedom” by visiting his website, www.alvinlee.com.  Of course, you’ll want to be sure and catch Alvin live when he appears in  your city so check his website often for tour updates. 

  • Edgar Winter

    Posted June, 2009

    Edgar Winter.  When the name is mentioned in the presence of Baby Boomers, it conjures up two iconic songs of the Seventies:  Frankentstein and Free Ride.  For others who enjoy the deeper, lesser known aspects of music, the name, Edgar Winter, brings to mind a Texas-born musical prodigy.

    Yes, prodigy.  For, not only has Winter's musical career spanned the genre's of rock, pop, blues and pop, he has mastered at the saxophone and a wide range of keyboard and percussion instruments.  To watch Edgar in concert provides the spectator with the rare but entertaining treat of viewing his virtuosity on these instruments.

    It was after witnessing just such a display of musical genius that I had the privilege of sitting down with Edgar Winter.  He had just retired to his hotel room after a crowd-pleasing concert at the Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival in Richardson, Texas.  Consequently, Edgar was a tired but very gracious host, not acting the least bit annoyed at having his day prolonged by yet another interview.  For this, Boomerocity is eternally grateful.

    After being escorted into Mr. Winter's hotel room by his tour manager and long time friend, Dave Lopez, we sat down for our conversation.  I complimented him on the tremendous show he just performed and about the diverse group of people that made up the audience.

    He's animated with his reply, "Yeah, I love those multi-generational shows.  I don't think there is any particular demographic, especially with the outdoor shows.  The hard core Johnny (as in "Winter", his equally iconic, blues guitarist brother)/Edgar/Rick (Derringer) fans are . . . one type of people but I think because I've done so many different kinds of music over my career.  "Entrance" was more of a blend of jazz, classical and rock so, our = my audience can be quite different.

    In chatting about the gig that he just completed, I asked if the show was his first time playing this particular venue.  The pride of being a Texan is readily apparent.  "As far as I can remember, yes, this is the first.  And, of course, ANY TIME I'm playing in Texas, that's my old stomping grounds!  I love coming back to Texas and I don't do that many shows here but we played in Houston last night which is even closer - 90 miles from Beaumont.  It was a great show.  The rain threatened but, uh, GREAT Frankenstein music with some thunder and lightning going on.  Whenever there's threatening weather, "Yeah!  ‘Frankenstein' is going to be PERFECT!"

    As a forty year rock and roll veteran, Winter has played venues all over the world.  I asked him which venues were his favorite places to play.  Listening to his answers was akin to what it would be like to hear Patton name his favorite fields of battle.

    Oh, I'll tell you, uh, I guess, just looking back over my career, there are certain ones that stand out.  We're all based in L.A. so I really like the Greek Theater there, in L.A.  It's beautiful.  It's sort of indoor/outdoor and the sunsets (are) really magical.

    And, as far as most memorable, I guess, Woodstock (laughs).  That was '69.  I played that with my brother, Johnny.  The Apollo Theater was one of my favorites.  And, I love Royal Albert Hall.  We did a U.K. tour about three or four years ago with Alvin Lee of Ten Years After.  The last show of the tour was Royal Albert Hall and we shot a video of it.  We've been trying to get it released and it looks like it's FINALLY going to come out.  I haven't even seen it so I have no idea what it looks like.

    Edgar goes on to explain the delay in it's release: "I think the guy that shot it had - he had a deal, I think with Sony, that probably was a part - you know, this particular thing was part of a group of things and I think that faltered.  Then I think he tried to replace it and it just kind of gone on and on.  He's kind of got it - he does, he has a big bulk of stuff.  Ours was just one of many things that just, lost in the shuffle!  But it is going to come out so that's good."

    Getting back to the venue discussion, Winter adds, "Oh, and Carnegie Hall!  Those are the ones that I - oh, I loved the Fillmore East.  That was amazing.  But, as far as places I like to play now, you know, the Greek is really one of my favorites."

    With so many accomplishments on his resume, I asked Edgar what he hasn't done that he would like to, musically.  "What haven't I done?  Well, I've got a Broadway musical comedy version of "Frankenstein" that I'm working on.  That's something that I haven't done yet.  I did a jazz CD which I've always wanted to do.  I have classical music that I will probably get around to recording at some point.  And . . . I love standards.  I'll probably do a standards album at some point.  Everybody's done them but, nevertheless, it's something that is a part of jazz - part of my jazz upbringing - unique arrangements of standards that have beautiful chords and are fun to play.  It's just something I've always wanted to do.

    I bring the conversation around to Winter's latest CD, Rebel Road, by telling him what a great disc it is.  "Oh, thank you!  Yeah, I was really happy with the way that came out.

    I add, "I have to tell you, though, I love the rockers, of course, but I was really touched by what you wrote about ‘The Closer I Get'.  But for you guys to be married this long and (with) you in this business, that's got to be one of the ‘Hall of Famer's', right?"

    Smiling as one who wishes that he was home with his wife, Edgar responds, "Well, yeah.  I'm equally, if not more proud of that than any of my accomplishments in music.  And it means so much to me.  I mean, music is great but if you don't have one to share your life with, what's the point?  And, really, music is spiritual.  It's a spiritual thing to me.  Well, life in general is a spiritual undertaking.  So many people - it's not very popular to be religious these days.  People always say, ‘Well, I'm not really religious but I am very spiritual.'  You never know - what does that mean, ‘that I believe in some thing'?

    Continuing on, he reflects, "I was brought up that way but I feel that religion is a personal thing.  And organized religions are sometimes problematical.  And that's a different a thing.  But music for me, that was the thing that helped illumine that spiritual path - to me.

    "When I played Woodstock, it really changed my life because, up to that point, I had been a serious musician as a kid.  It was my own private escape world.  I just loved music.  I loved the beauty of harmony and rhythm and just loved it in and of itself rather than a means to an end."

    In bringing back the discussion to "Rebel Road, I comment, "There are two great country cuts on your latest CD.  How come there's not a crossover there.  Do you not want to go ‘country'?"

    The Texan rises up in him again.  "I'm from Texas and I grew up playing country music.  Being around it and  . . . it's just sort of odd that it's one of the influences that's never really come out in my music.

    "I had written some lyrics to a song that I thought was a blues song, "Horns of a Dilemma".  And the guys that I was writing with, Curt and James, took a look at these lyrics and, "Oh, that's a great Country song!" "What?  I thought it was a Blues song!" "No, man!  It's a great Country rocker!"  They came up with a treatment of it.  I thought about it and said, "You know?  You could be right.  It could be that."  So, uh, I've really thought about doing a Country album until, until we did those two songs.  Now that's another thing I might do.

    "It's like "Power of Positive Drinkin'".  It's clever like some kind of play on words from a familiar phrase.  A lot of them, they're kinda geared in that way.  I've always enjoyed those.  Those are good examples of it.  "Horns of a Dilemma".  Familiar phrase.

    I mention the fact that his friend and country star, Clint Black, is on the two country tunes.

    "Yeah . . . Clint, you know, it was just so great to have him on both of those songs.  All the guests! Slash did a great job on "Rebel Road" and Johnny was great on "Rockin' the Blues".  When I listen to THAT song and close my eyes, it takes me back to when we were kids.

    "You know, you always, in the process of making an album, there's those magical moments that happen.  "The Closer I Get" is that way for me.  And the one I wrote for Ringo, "Peace and Love", is another one.  That's all of what you always hope for in the process of making music is that you're gonna really, like, it's - I think that's why they use to call them "albums" because it's like - sort of like a musical snapshot that captures a moment in time when something really happened."

    I mention to him that "one thing that really stood out to me about your album is how positive it is.  The over-arching theme of Rebel Road is by-the-numbers great rock and roll and some blues.  But your message in there is a positive, refreshing feel."

    "Yeah, most of my songs are optimistic.  I have a dark one occasionally.  But, uh, yeah, rock is about having a good time.  And . . . I think the thing about blues - even though . . . a lot of the content is sad, it's still like transforming suffering into joy.  It's still happy music.  It's a hard thing to explain.  But you listen to it and you say, ‘Oh, I thought things were bad for me!  Man!  I'm pretty well off, actually.'

    "But, yeah, thanks!  Writing, it's one of those stream-of-consciousness things - and I suppose it just reflects the fact that I am really happy now.  I love the music I'm making.  I love my band.  I love my wife, Monique.  (We've been) married for 30 years.  And . . . it means the world to me to be able to do what I most love and see people out there having a great time.  What could be better than that?

    "I would be playing regardless if whether paid for it because I love to play.  I don't even think of it as a career.  To me, it's like a hobby.  Just something that I love to do.  Well, not a hobby.  It's a consuming interest.  It's really my life.  A lot of people think of it as a business.  I really never have.

    "What's most important to me is just that I'm making honest music.  Whenever anybody asks me about advice, I always say that the thing is just to follow your heart and do what you really believe in and what really matters to you.  Don't try to think about what's going to sell or try to second guess what audiences - what people are going to want to hear.  You do the music that's in your heart - that you really love and care about and I think that will communicate more than anything else to an audience and to the people that hear it."

    I turn the conversation to his participation in the "Heroes of Woodstock" tour of shows.

    Smiling, he says, "You know, a lot of people are not aware that I played Woodstock because our footage was not in the movie or any of the CD's or any of that stuff.  We played the whole set.  He, at that point, Johnny did the part of his show with his blues trio.  No one even knew that I existed back then.  ‘Now, I'm going to bring on my little brother, Edgar!'  And I came on, (mimicking the audience) ‘Oh, wow!  There's two of them!'

    And then, he would do, "Rollin' and Tumblin'", "Mean Town Blues", I forget all exactly - probably "Hustle Down in Texas".  Just a lot of his standard blues songs.  I did "Tobacco Road" with the band.  We did a version of what became "Frankenstein", the instrumental, which we use to call "The Double Drum Song" - we did that.  The Ray Charles song called, "Tell The Truth".  I don't remember if we played it at Woodstock but that was one of the songs that we did.

    "I know that there are 10 or 12 of those ‘Heroes of Woodstock' things.  We're not sure how many of those we're going to be doing.  I think that there's only one of them that's for sure."

    Our conversation involved other work, the record industry and life in general.  Certainly to much to include in this story.  However, I left the interview sensing Edgar Winter's profound love for his wife, his brother, those near to him, and people in general.  He exudes a sincerity that is commonly found in the rarified air of celebrity.  As they say in the south about people like him, "he's good people."

    This article written by Randy Patterson.  All rights reserved and cannot not be used without written permission, which can be obtained by writing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

  • Guitar Heaven

     

    guitar heaven cover photoGuitar Heaven
    Artist: Santana
    Label: Arista
    Reviewed: October, 2010

    Guitar Heaven is the appropriately named latest project from Carlos Santana. I say “appropriately named” because the song selections and Santana’s treatment and interpretation of those songs are absolutely heavenly. I picked up the disc while vacationing in Phoenix and couldn’t turn the darn thing off. I LOVE IT!!!

    From the opening riffs of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, with a more than phenomenal vocal delivery by Chris Cornell (Soundgarden and Audioslave) to the duet with Jonny Lang on I Ain’t Superstitious, this CD delivers a delightful bundle of great songs that you’ll more than likely hit repeat repeatedly. Also enjoying the rare and special opportunity to work with this guitar legend are such incredible artists as Scott Weiland, Rob Thomas, Chris Daughtry, Nas, India.Arie, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacoby Shaddix, Pat Monahan, Gavin Rossdale and Joe Cocker.

    One very interesting and pleasant surprise on the album is Santana’s version of the Doors hit, Rider’s On The Storm, featuring Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) and Doors co-founder and keyboardist, Ray Manzarek. Delivered with a similar, but completely different, eeriness, the unmistakable ivory artistry of Mansarek provides a consistent thread from the original recording to Santana’s interpretation of this iconic hit. I’m not sure but I think Jim Morrison would be proud of this one.

    If you love the original versions of the twelve songs on Guitar Heaven, then you’re going to also love Santana’s version of these same tunes. Download now and find out for yourself.

  • Leslie West

    Posted July, 2009

    westandvanhalenPhoto by Wade WeberIf you’re a middle-aged, “slightly overweight”, pasty white guy like me, you occasionally wish that you could go back in time.  You wish that you could go back to the smooth skinned, skinny person you were in high school or college.  You wish that you could go back in that time when you knew more than your parents and were fully aware of the solutions to all of the world’s problems.  In her top selling hit, Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin wailed, “I’d trade all of my tomorrow’s for a single yesterday.”

    Do I have some great news for you!  You can go back in time and it won’t cost you your future.  That’s right, folks!  Coming to a city or town near  you, you can catch the tour that is getting the Baby Boomer Generation’s tongues a-waggin’ and classic rock fans salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

    That tour?  HippieFest and, this year, it has a dynamite line-up of some of the favorite artists and bands that blared from your radio while you wowed your imaginary legions of fans while you lip-synched or played the world’s best air guitar.  Artists such as Chuck Negron (the voice of Three Dog Night), and Flo and Eddie, Felix are on the line up as are Joe Molland (Bad Finger), Mitch Ryder, Brewer and Shipley, and Mountain and the surviving half of its founding duo, Leslie West.  West’s founding partner, Felix Pappalardi, was the victim of what was ruled as a negligent homicide committed by his wife, Gail Collins Pappalardi, in 1983.

    Leslie West is a man who is comfortable with where he is in life while touring with his band that enjoys an impressive 40 year legacy that still commands broad support.  While Mountain still has fans that remember when they performed at Woodstock and bought their first vinyl album, West is introducing a new generation to his signature Mountain sound.  The bands iconic hit, Mississippi Queen, has been covered by artists and bands ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top to being sampled by current Rap artists.  This new surge in popularity has, no doubt, been helped by the band’s music being featured in TV shows, movies and, more recently, in video games.

    Before the band boarded their tour bus to join the HippieFest tour, I had the privilege of chatting with Leslie West.  We started off by talking about what Mountain has been up to lately.

    “Well, we just finished two months with Joe Satriani and all over the country and had the holidays, working on my guitar DVD that should be out soon and called, ‘Sounds of the Stories’ and getting ready to go on this tour, HippieFest  . . .”.  He also mentions with pride that he and the band will performing again at Woodstock forty years and one after the band made its appearance there.  In addition to performing the set they played in 1969, there will be a new, life changing event taking place on stage:  He’s going to marry his fiancé.

    I was curious about the backstage environment between the bands on the HippeFest. “We travel with our own bus so we don’t really hang out to much.  We have a good time hanging out with Flo and Eddie and Felix Cavaliere.  I’ve known Felix for a long time – we’re old buddies.”  Later, he adds with a laugh, “Yeah, (the bands) us to talk a out buying cocaine and now they talk about buying Lipitor and Plavix and drugs like that, you know?”  This, no doubt, leads to a healthier line-up than in days gone by.

    I asked West if the inclusion of “Mississippi Queen” in Guitar Hero III was creating a larger, younger audience for Mountain.

    “Well, it’s been on Rock Band, also.  When you have a game like that, that did over a billion dollars in business, it sure does.  And, also, Kanye West and Jay-Zee used my songs for some of their songs, too.  That has helped quite a bit.   “99 problems” by Jay-Z  was my music is being sampled.  Kanye West is the same thing – the song, Long Red.  So, all of a sudden – go figure!”

    With forty years of touring under his belt, Leslie West has seen and done it all.  I asked him what the main differences are that he sees in touring today as compared to the 60’s and 70’s.

    “A better tour bus!  That makes it a lot easier because I hate to fly and it’s a pain in the *** - security and all that stuff and, uh, it takes a toll on you.  But, on the bus, you finish playing, you go relax and all of a sudden, you’re moving and in the next city and if you want to go to the hotel, you can relax.   Just to play the shows is tough enough.

    “You know, what happened, I think, after 9-11 when nobody could fly and that all happened.  Well, these corporations and everybody else started saying, “Wow!  A tour bus is the only way we can get anywhere.  And they started using them and they started making them nicer.  Everybody wants a tour bus now. “

    The Woodstock generation was one that clearly lived for the day.  I asked West, “When you were touring back in the 60’s and 70’s, what did you expect the world to be like 40 years later?”

    He bluntly states, “I didn’t expect anything.  I was lucky we made it to a month!  I was a kid and we were writing rules as we went along.”  Reflecting on the idyllic mindset of those days, he adds, “You could leave the doors to your house open and, you know, nobody had guns, really, and, if you did, you were just shooting rabbits up in the country.  But, like Dylan said, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

    This lead to talking about what he missed from those days.  He shared about missing being younger and thinking he was “bullet proof”.  “I could throw myself off a building and I wouldn’t hurt.  We’d finish – especially when we did this last tour with Satriani, I think it was 35 shows in 42 days.   But I also did the encore with him.  So, Mountain did our show then left and he did his show and I had to come back and do a half an hour with him.  So, it was, like, 70 shows in . . . 45 days.  It was a lot of work.  It was one after the other so you just keep going and don’t get a chance to exhale. “

    Conversely, he mentions what he doesn’t miss about those days.  “What I don’t miss is . . . sometimes we had to do two festivals in one day.  (We would) get on the jet and do the Cincinnati Pop Festival then fly to Atlanta at night and do the Atlanta Pop Festival.  It was really rough.  I mean, all of a sudden, the festivals would hit and – I was lucky enough to be on them but it was an awful lot of travel.  I always thought we got paid to travel, not paid to play.  That’s what it felt like.

    Still comparing the 60’s and 70’s to today, the conversation turns, naturally enough, to today’s music.  He loves Creed and says that “Mark Tremonti is a really great guitar player.”  But Creed is about the only current talent that commands his respect.  He doesn’t see anyone that offers anything new.

    I suggest American Idol’s Adam Lambert but West slaps the offering down by saying, “Yeah, but there is nobody that is totally so -  so – so unique that you think, “Wow!  I never heard anything like that before!  The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    He also bemoans how music is made today, saying, “I tell you the truth, some of the music today, I don’t know what . . . I’m listening to.  Am I listening to machines?  Am I listening to tape of somebody?  I don’t know if somebody is really playing.  I can sometimes really tell if somebody is really playing the guitar.”

    Speaking of guitars, West lights up talking about his “baby”:  His signature line of guitars manufactured by Dean Guitars.  “.  I’m really involved with my Leslie West Signature Guitar with Dean Guitars.  It’s important to me.  We got into it, finally, and I have my own model and now we have four models.  Check out DeanGuitars.com and look at the 40th Anniversary Leslie West Guitar.  We made this great looking guitar with inlay on it and a peace sign with my initials in it for the anniversary of Woodstock.

    “ . . . they sold out of the anniversary ones they made.  They were quite expensive.  They only made 10 or 12 but the other ones are doing very well.  It took me a while to figure out what I wanted (the guitars) to look like.  I use to play a Les Paul Junior but this one is like a Ferrari version of that.  And, then, also we have my own Leslie West pick-ups – “M.O.T. “ (Mountain of Tone) pick-ups with Dean Guitars.  And, this summer, we’re coming out with the 40th Anniversary Mississippi Queen cow bells.  So, we’re doing pretty good.”

  • Leslie West Discusses Soundcheck Hendrix, and More

    Posted March 2016

    Photo by Justin Borucki

         

    One of the most talked about performances at Woodstock (but didn’t’ get to make it on the movie) is the eleven song set by Mountain. At the time, the band was mostly noted for it’s cover of the Jack Bruce tune, Theme for an Imaginary Western, as well as blistering guitar solos by the bands founder, Leslie West.

    In the years that followed, the band continued to blaze musical trails, ultimately releasing eight studio and three live albums. It’s signature hit became “Mississippi Queen” that has been heard all over the world and used in movies, TV shows and commercials. 

    Leslie West also simultaneously launched a successful solo career, marked by fifteen solo albums – sixteen when you include his new monumental effort, “Soundcheck.” It was for “Soundcheck” that I recently contacted West by phone. In fact, I called him on the 45th anniversary of the passing of Jimi Hendrix. I was curious about your thoughts about him.

    “Well, it was really sad. He died at almost 28 years old. I’ve since become friends with his sister, Janie. She came through New York recently – within the last year. They’re doing a documentary on the Atlanta Pop Festival – with Jimi there. They were interviewing people that played it. She’s such a sweetheart.”

    Circling back to Jimi himself, West continued:

    “Too bad he’s not still around. I have very fond memories. I played with him at a club in New York at, like, one in the morning. Just me and him. Him playing bass and me playing guitar. In fact, on MoutainRockBand.com – our website – there’s a picture of Hendrix playing bass and me playing guitar that night. It’s not the greatest picture but you can certainly see that it’s him and me. 

    “He went WAY before his time. Yeah, that wasn’t a happy day.”

    Bringing the conversation to Leslie’s new CD, I asked him how many solo records this mad for him.

    “I think it’s sixteen solo albums, believe it or not. I think. Somebody wrote that the other day. I started to count them but I feel really tired so I’m not going to start to count. Ha! Ha! The good thing is this one I’m really proud of. The sound is great and I’ve got some good people playing on it.”

    When he says, “some good people,” West is referring to people such as Queen’s Brian May, Peter Frampton, Bonnie Bramlett, Jack Bruce and Joe Franco (via some resurrected studio tapes). When I said that having such a stellar group of artists willing to play on his album certain said a lot about the respect he has amongst such big names, Leslie said:

    “On the ‘Going Down’ track with Brian May, a friend of mine was producing at the time and he got us all together. So, when I was doing this album, nobody had ever heard it, I don’t think. The song was written by Don Nix. Don sang it originally. But when we listened to the masters of it, he didn’t use Brian’s solo. Somebody else finished producing it even though my friend started it. 

    “So, when me and my engineer heard it, I was playing the solo on the first half of the song. There was a break and then Brian played the solo on the second half on out. We put it together and it was great! We’ve got Max Milton playing the intro on piano. I get really excited. That’s probably my favorite guitar song to jam on of all time.”

    As we talked about the songs on the album, I mentioned how unique his treatment of the old song, “You Are My Sunshine,” was in its contrary delivery.

         

    Photo by Justin Borucki

    With a chuckle, Leslie shared the background to that version.

    “I gotta give credit to Sons of Anarchy because I heard somebody doing it on there. Instead of the major key that the sounds so happy, it was in a minor key. I said, ‘Boy, I think I can really do a very, very ‘funerally’ – funeral dirge – some kind of sad version of it.’ 

    “I called Peter Frampton because I’d done something with Peter the year before. I said, ‘Peter, I’ve got a version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ that I’d love for you to play with me.’ I sent it to him. It really came out great. I’m really proud of it. Between the two of us – I think I started out playing the first solo and he played the second one. After the break in the middle, he plays the first solo and I play the last solo and we play the last line together.

    “I’ve known Peter forty-five years – something like that. Even though we’d toured together, we’d never actually played together. He had this tour last year called ‘Frampton’s Circus’. He invited me to play a couple of shows on it. It was the first time we had ever played together. Now we’ve played together twice.”

    After working with them on this record, are there any more plans to collaborate with any of these people in the future?

    “Well, there’s a young guitar player – Jim Cook – a blues player. He’s going to be opening for me in New York when I play B.B. King’s. I play a track on his album. I think the kid’s gonna be something special. I’m looking forward to that.”

    Having worked on all of the Mountain and solo records that he has – as well as appearing on many of his friends’ projects – I asked West how “Soundcheck” was different for him.

    “It’s not so much different than the last one I did, ‘Still Climbing,” because that was only two years ago. The machines and everything else – every two weeks there are new things to try out. We’re pretty much on ProTools. The secret to making a good album is a good engineer. I can just play and Mike can edit where I need editing. Putting songs together is a lot easier now that it used to be years ago.”

    As a “calling card” for the entire record, Leslie offered his choice of song:

    “The first cut, ‘Left by The Roadside to Die’. It starts with a synthesizer. I actually played that part on the guitar and had my keyboard player start to play it. So, right off the bat, I guess you’d expect to hear a guitar from me. This, at least, you hear that synthesizer come on and then I start playing some slide and it gets heavy. It shows some different phases of what I can do in one song. I would hope that would get you to listen to the rest of the album!”

    The best of the best guitarist are sought after by the various guitar manufacturers. It’s no surprise that Leslie West has a signature line through Dean Guitars. When asked how that line was doing, he said:

    “Great. We ran about five models. From very expensive, to the middle, to very inexpensive so everybody can play it. Even the less expensive ones have great graphics on it. The newest model is the Leslie West Peace guitar. It has my logo. The logo looks like a peace sign but, if you look closely, one of the lines on the circle is left out so it looks like an LW. It’s a black guitar with a silver peace sign on it. It looks great! It’s been a lot of fun. I mean, I feel sorry for Jimi Hendrix. He’s dead and he never had a model while he was alive.”

    Photo by Justin Borucki

         

    Jimi Hendrix came up in the conversation about signature guitars when West started talking about what a Hendrix signature model might be.

    “They were upside down Stratocasters. They weren’t left-handed. He would take a regular Strat and just re-string it. A guy like Albert King, he used to turn the guitar upside down and play it backwards. I don’t know how the hell he did that! He had the big Flying V and just turned it upside down so, where the fat E string would be, he had the little, thin E, first! I wondered how he stretched the strings that far. 

    “The first gig we ever did was with Albert King. Fillmore West. Mountain’s first gig. I watched him play. I had been trying to develop my vibrato and stretch the strings. I wanted to stretch them as much as he could. When I found out that he was doing it from the opposite way, it made it a lot easier. I didn’t see that until I watched him. I wished that I had saw him before. It would’ve made my life a lot easier and simpler!”

    Circling back around to Hendrix, again, Leslie said:

    “Yeah, if Jimi was still around, I kinda know what his Strat would be like.”

    Our conversation turned to another great, legendary guitarist – one who recently passed away and who, like West, played at Woodstock: Johnny Winter.

    “I was on Johnny’s last album. ‘Long Tall Sally’. And Johnny played on my last album on the song, ‘Busted, Disgusted or Dead’. My engineer mixed Johnny’s last album and got a Grammy for it. We (Johnny) were pretty close. I actually helped Johnny get himself straightened out, drug wise. He didn’t die from drugs, man. He just died of natural causes. He wasn’t doing to well, health-wise. Neither was I, but, somehow, I’m still around!”

    That last comment gave me the opportunity to ask Leslie how he was doing. As some of you may not know, West has had some serious health problems over the last several years – including the loss of a leg - so I asked how he was doing. His initial remark blindsided me.

    “I was going to ask you, Randy: Did you find it (his leg)?” 

    Then, on a more serious note, he added:

    “My balance is terrible and I haven’t been able to use the prosthetic so I have to sit in a chair to play, unfortunately. But it hasn’t stopped me from playing. That’s a good thing. In rehab, they put me in the parallel bars with the prosthetic leg and made me put the guitar on. I put the guitar on and they wanted to see how long I could stand and play the guitar without falling. I didn’t last thirty seconds. 

         

    Photo by Justin Borucki

    “I said, ‘You know, this isn’t going to work on stage. I don’t want to be worrying about falling when I’m trying to play.’ Even though you have a prosthetic, it feels like an alien to you.”

    Then, after sharing more about his adjustment to losing his leg, he said:

    “Life is precious, Randy. Thank God for the guitar, right?”

    I know you have many more years of work left in you but when you finally do go to that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

    “When the time comes, and they cover me with dirt and grass, to all my critics that didn’t like the way I played, they can kiss my big . . . “

    I’ll leave it to you to figure out what else he said. 

Featured Photo

Jim Keltner.Broken Glass DW

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is is a bit different from past featured photos. 

 

 

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