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  • Badass Generation

         

    Badass Generation
    The Paul Nelson Band
    Label: Friday Music
    Release Date: February 5, 2016
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Johnny Winter fans know who Paul Nelson as Johnny Winter’s “wing man” on the guitar and who helped Winter’s last years alive to be some of the best and healthiest of his life. However, Nelson was not only guitarist to the legendary rock/blues icon but is recognized in his own right as one of today’s premier guitarists. 

    “Johnny definitely took me under his wing,” Nelson remembers his late friend and mentor. “The blues world does that. One musician hands you the torch, and then you try to run with it. Johnny took pride in turning me on to the likes of Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters Delta, Texas and Chicago blues – all the music that he loved. I knew what he was doing for me, and I am really appreciative for that.” 

    Worldwide touring has always been a constant in his career. Nelson and his time with Winter was no different, performing and/or recording along side an array of today’s top artists such as: Slash, Vince Gill, Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth, Edgar Winter, Leslie West, Susan Tedeshi, Joe Bonamassa, Dickey Betts, Rick Derringer, Brian Setzer, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford and countless others. Major appearances such as television performances on "Late Night with David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" soon followed. This finally led Nelson to perform on and produce “Step Back,” a posthumous, star- studded affair, - pairing him on recordings with Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry, Ben Harper and many others, earning both Nelson and Winter Grammy Awards for "Best Blues Album" in 2015. Nelson still feels the loss of his friend and mentor. But he also recognizes that new creative endeavors are ahead. 

    The formation of The Paul Nelson Band and its debut album, Badass Generation, marks the next step in that evolution. Nelson’s latest project still maintains an unmistakable connection to the blues, but it also finds the guitarist showing his other musical dimensions, from hard-edged, uncompromising rock and blues to acoustic-driven singer-songwriter fare. 

    On this album Nelson and his newly formed band skillfully incorporate an array of sounds and styles, with what Nelson's fans know to be his calling card: remarkable, world-class virtuosity on the guitar - what you might expect of someone who was also taught by six-string master Steve Vai. "This project has so much input from all of the different styles of music that have influenced me and my band, from blues to classic rock to jam band, pop rock and more. I wanted to play the guitar to serve the songs – and not the other way around. Everything I create has to fit in with the music.” says Nelson. 

    Nelson’s handpicked co-conspirators include vocalist Morten Fredheim, who turned heads topping the European edition of “The Voice”, bassist Christopher Alexander; and Chris Reddan on drums. Gov’t Mule keyboardist Danny Louis also makes a cameo appearance. The collective result is something that’s musically rooted in the classic era of Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company, Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Allman Brothers, Aerosmith and ZZ Top – but right at home with a fresh new take in the 21st century. “We got together and painstakingly worked out these songs before we recorded them. The caliber of the musicians in this band is inspiring” Nelson explains. 

    Nelson is eager to begin this new stage of his career with his band mates. Songs such as "Keep It All Together" with Fredheim's soaring vocals, and Nelson's classic guitar sounds to "Goodbye Forever", with it's infectious groove and chorus and "Please Come Home" displaying emotional melodies and soulful slide guitar work, all which are among the few future stand out classics found on this album. "I want our music to touch many people in the same way it did us in the making and performing of this album" says Nelson. His only regret? That his old friend wasn’t able to sit in on a few of the tunes. “Johnny Winter's influence will always be a part of me,” he says. “There are many times when I pick up my guitar, and I feel his music. I know he’s with me in a way, but I also have influences from so many other places. Have I now spread my wings? Absolutely. I’m a musician. I have to keep on writing and performing and never stop.” 

    Johnny Winter fans, in particular, and guitar aficionados in general, will definitely want to add Badass Generation to their listening library.

  • 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. .

  • John Mayall - Knoxville, TN - March 2016

    John Mayall

    Opening Act: Bill Carter

    Bijou Theatre – Knoxville, Tennessee

    March 10, 2016

     

    I had the privilege of chatting with the legendary blues man, John Mayall, back in September (here). I finished my chat with Mayall ardently desiring to be able to catch him in concert. 

    My wish came true Thursday night at the beautiful Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. My fulfilled dream was further enhanced by getting to meet the blues legend in person. No, it wasn’t backstage or on the tour bus. The man was manning his own merch table and selling his work. 

    Yep. Seriously.

    The evening began with singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Bill Carter. You won’t find anyone who can write deeper, more thought provoking songs that this Austin, Texas, treasure. To be able to watch him perform is a rare, musical treat to be savored and savor I did.

    When Mayall hit the stage afterwards, he did so while fist-pumping to a near sellout, enthusiastic crowd. Hitting the keyboards, harmonica, and guitar, playing gems from his song catalog that spans over fifty years. Some in the crowd remembered the earliest tunes as if they were first released yesterday. Others were quite aware of the songs off of his latest CD, “Find A Way To Care”. Collectively, everyone was thrilled from beginning to end – including the encore.

    It seems that 2016 is the year that we are losing many musical icons. Many of them are passing at an age far young than 82 year old John Mayall. I encourage you to catch artists like Mr. Mayall while you still can. They won’t be around forever and they will energize you with the power and spirit that they personify. 

    Oh, and after that show? John and the band were in the lobby, selling merchandise and kibitzing with fans. 

    That, my friends, is real class.

  • Johnny Winter (2010)

    Posted May, 2010

    Do you remember the “Jay Walking” bit that Jay Leno did on his original late night show? He might still do it but I gave up late night TV for  . . . for . . . sleep!  Anyway, I would love to do my own version of Jay Walking.  What I would do is ask people various trivia questions about classic rock.  Based on my own private discussions with friends, it would be a hoot to see what kind of answers I would get.

    Case in point: Take the subject of Johnny Winter.  I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that the person on the street will react in one of three ways (just like some of my friends), when I mention this legends name.  Those reactions would be either a blank stare and then, not wanting to look ignorant, say something really stupid like, “Any relation to Jack Frost?”Or, they may try saying something "brainy" like, “Oh, yeah, that comedian dude from the late sixties!

    But the truly brainy ones, those well versed in all things classic rock and blues, a knowing smile will spread across their face with a response that will go something like, “Ah, yes!  PHENOMENAL guitar player!” Or, “YES!  One of the all time blues greats!”

    As for me, when I ask myself these kinds of questions (and I do!), my mind flashes immediately back to the early seventies.  I’m sitting in the living room, having managed, somehow, to commandeer the only TV in the house, and watching Midnight Special.

    I forget who else was on the show but I remember a fella by the name of Johnny Winter being introduced and this scrawny guitarist (are there any other kind?) runs out on stage and starts wailing away the most incredible version of Jumpin’ Jack Flash that I had ever heard.

    I was mesmerized. I was in awe of the other-wordliness of the guitar playing and the showmanship.  In my pubescent mind, I was watching the bleeding edge of rock and roll.

    Later, I was to discover Johnny’s equally musically prodigious brother, Edgar.  Both men grew up in Beaumont, Texas, just 22 short miles from Port Arthur and another 60’s rock icon, Janis Joplin.  Johnny and Edgar were heavily influenced by the blues and gravitated to the blues clubs in the area, often being the only white guys in the crowd and not being hassled in the slightest.

    While making a musical name for himself in Beaumont and the surrounding towns, Johnny was discovered by Rolling Stone Magazine, who featured him in a story about the music scene in Texas and declared him the hottest thing going outside of Janis Joplin.

    This ultimately led to Columbia Records winning a bidding war for Winter to join their roster of artists. Later, Johnny drags kid brother Edgar along for what became their legendary performance at Woodstock.  While the performance didn’t make the original cinematic release, Johnny’s appearance is featured in the 40th anniversary DVD released last year.

    With career spanning six consecutive decades, Winter shows no signs of letting up in touring and productivity.  In addition to a heaving solo touring schedule, he’s also slated to appear, again, at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in Chicago on June 6th, 2010. He’ll join a long list of other guitar legends for a day long festival of incredible music.

    It was checking out Johnny’s tour schedule that I was excited to learn that he was going to be appearing in the Dallas area.  As I typically do, I did my darnedest to seek out an interview with Mr. Winter.  I was successful in landing a brief chat with Johnny a couple of weeks ago, being kind enough to answer a few questions.

    Like Edgar, who I interviewed last year (here), Johnny is somewhat soft spoken and is a man of even fewer words. Since I knew our chat would be brief, I got right to my questions by asking what he had been up the last couple of years.

    With his signature brevity, he replies quite honestly, “Enjoying the fruits of finally cleaning up my act by getting off of drugs and alcohol. It has made such a difference in my life.”

    What else can be added to that?  With those monkeys off of his back, Winter has the strength and stamina to present stellar performances while on the road.  To that point, I asked him what can a fan expect to experience at one of his shows today?

    “Mostly blues, but with some rock mixed in. I do songs from my past and present recordings. I have a great new band and a fantastic new guitarist Paul Nelson and of course I bring out my Gibson Firebird and play some slide. I don’t want to give away my whole set, but we really have a great time playing.”

    In preparation for the interview, I had read where a book on Johnny was set for publication just after our chat was taking place.  I asked about it and, again, got a brief but informative answer.

    “Yes, it’s called Raising Cane. I had a writer follow me around for some time and it covers my whole life from start to present. It makes for a very interesting read” he concludes with a laugh.

    As I always try to do when interviewing people, I asked what would be the one thing that he felt has been least covered and understood about him and his work.

    “Actually there has been nothing in my life that I haven’t been asked about - from drugs and playing to sex and rock and roll. If anyone has any questions they should read the book. It’s a very descriptive account of my life even though a few of the people that were interviewed for the book might have sugar coated some of their stories about me for personal recognition. That’s happened a lot in my life. People say that they know me more than they actually do or that they’ve been involved in helping me more than they really did.”

    Since most fans, critics and observers consider Johnny Winter the definitive “blues man”, I asked him what his opinion of the state of the blues today in today’s music market.

    “I don’t think the blues will ever go away. It has moments when it rises to the top and moments when it takes the back seat. But it is and will always be an important part of any style of music.”

    Since the blues is foundational to much of rock music, I asked Winter if he saw the blues saving the music business or was it even the place of the blues to do so.

    “Like I just said, there has to be blues in any style of music. That’s what gives it its feel and soul.”

    As previously noted, Johnny Winter’s career spans six decades.  He’s, no doubt, observed lots of changes, both positive and negative, in the music business. I asked him what has been the most positive change he’s seen in the business.

    “There’s been hundreds of changes, both in promotion and the birth of new styles of music out of old styles. Nowadays, which is a good thing, both old and new music is respected.”

    I asked Johnny to reflect, for just a moment, on if he were a teenager today and was angling to get into the music business.  I asked him how he would enter the business today, given what he knows now and would his style, musicianship and musical interests be different.

    “I don’t think it matters what era you’re in. If you’re good, you’re good.  You really have to practice and study hard. If you have the talent someone will notice.”

    “I have always and will always love the blues. Whether I started in the 60’s or last week, I’m a bluesman and I will stay that way until I die”, he says with his trademark smile.

    I asked Winter if there are any new artists out that is commanding his attention.  I had a few names in made (who will remain nameless) that I thought for sure he would mention.  I should have known better.

    “The truth is I really only like listening to blues from the past. Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and mostly blues from the 50s.  That’s what inspires me!”

    As was mentioned earlier, Johnny was born and raised 22 miles northwest of where Jani Joplin was born and raised.  This October will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Joplin. Their professional paths wound up crossing and he come to know Janis.  I asked him if there was anything he felt was misunderstood about the late icon.  Again, his answer is short and sweet.

    “I think the description of her history has been pretty accurate.”

    In asking what his foremost memory of Joplin was, Winter shared this amusing story:

    “I remember one time we went together to see a Mae West movie and I was wearing a long coat with fur lapels. The audience turned around, saw me and started to applaud, thinking that I was Mae West coming to watch my own movie.”

    With no signs of slowing down, I wanted to know what was next, CD-wise, from the guitarmeister.

    “I just signed a deal with Megaforce Records and I plan on putting something out within the next year.”

    After the interview, I reflected the conversation and how, if at all, my impressions of the man had changed.  I suppose that I expected someone who was as flamboyant in conversation as he is on stage. Obviously, Winter is the exact opposite.  He’s a man of few words but what he says reflects exactly what he means.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    While putting the interview to paper, I decided to check out other interviews to see what I could have done better.  While watching the videos of some of his interviews, I was noticed something about this legendary man.  As when I interviewed Johnny, when the subject is about Johnny the man, he says only what needs to be said.  I chalk that up to humility.

    However, when Winter is asked about other people or music, he breaks out beyond the tight circle of words and is much more vocal.  Even when talking about his music, he becomes very animated.  While some might say, “Of course! He’s talking about HIS music!”

    I don’t think that’s the point.  I believe that it’s because he’s talking about MUSIC, period.  Johnny Winter is all about the music, especially the blues.  That is his love, his passion and is what flows in his now clean and always gifted veins. To Johnny, it’s always about the music.

    While minor aspects of my perceptions of Johnny have been slightly altered, what hasn’t changed is my perception of Johnny Winter being the consummate rock and blues guitarist.  He’s that and more. He’s a man who, after long, painful battles, has finally successfully conquered his demons while not quenching the creative spirit within.

    Read more about Johnny’s story in Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter, published by Backbeat Books. If that doesn’t satisfy your Winter itch, check out his website, www.johnnywinter.net.  In addition to finding out what he’s up to, you can avail yourself to the many quality items he has for sell at his online store.

  • Johnny Winter - Dallas, 2010

    Johnny Winter In Concert

    Show Date: June 20, 2010

    Venue: The Granada Theater

     3524 Greenville Avenue

     Dallas, Texas

    To say that the Johnny Winter concert at the Granada Theater was jaw-dropping good would be a complete understatement. The show put me in the rare position of being so enthralled with his incredible talent on the guitar, as well as the incredible musicianship of his band, I literally forgot to write down any of the songs that the man played.

    To watch Winter walk out on stage and just start stomping out the blues was mesmerizing. I am not a musician. I don’t even play one on TV. However, I’m one of those odd ducks that enjoy watching the techniques of great musicians as they perform their craft. In watching Johnny do his thang on the six string, it’s obvious that he’s forgotten more about playing the blues than any of us would ever hope to know.

    Winter played his set list with such familiarity that he seldom glanced at the fret board as he played. His long, slender fingers effortlessly flowed all over his guitar as he alternatively played lead and rhythm.

    For me, the highlight of the show was Winter’s treatment of the blues standard, Red House. Watching him play the great tune made me feel that I was somehow watching a rare, historic event. And to think his performance at Woodstock with his brother, Edgar, didn’t make the movie’s original cut!

    Johnny’s band included guitarist and manager, Paul Nelson, who was almost equally as mesmerizing to watch as Winter; Scott Spray provided excellent, steady bass work while Vito Liuzzi pounded the skins as well as any great professional drummer I’ve ever heard.

    The opening act was a man that I had never heard of before but, I promise you, I’ll never forget. His name isMike Zito and all I can say is “WOW!”. Zito’s guitar work blew me away – especially when he performed the title cut from his latest CD, Pearl River. There’s just something about a great guitar player that’s part of a great three piece band. Zito joined Winter on the stage for one song but I could’ve watched them both jam all night.

    Keep an eye on this guy - he’s good – REALLY good!

    This was the first concert I’ve experienced in the Granada Theater. It’s an intimate and comfortable venue with dinner tables and descent food available at reasonable rates. All of the staff that I came in contact with were helpful and friendly. I’m looking forward to seeing many more shows at this place. You should, too.

    To find out if Johnny Winter is playing in your neck of the woods or to just keep up with the latest news about him, check out his website,www.johnnywinter.net. While you’re there, check out his store and bring your music library up to date.

  • Johnny Winter - Dallas, 2012

    Johnny Winter In Concert
    Show Date: February 1, 2012
    Venue: The Granada Theater - Dallas, Texas

    Whoever tells you that lightning never strikes twice in the same place has never seen Johnny Winter perform twice at the beautiful Granada Theater in Dallas.

    Still flying on the emotional high from his appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Johnny and his band came prepared to blow away the sold out crowd at the historic venue.

    The crowd was thoroughly primed after killer sets by the opening acts, Damon Fowler and Jim Suhler. Fowler and his band were incredibly awesome. I had never heard of them before and was disappointed that I didn’t make it into the theater until his set was well underway. Great, great band that I hope to hear a lot more of in the future.

    Homeboy, Jim Suhler followed and it was clear that many of his fans were in the audience because they seemed to know what he was going to play next before he played it. He and the band were tight – especially during their tribute to Rory Gallagher.

    Almost precisely on time, Johnny Winter’s band – consisting of 2nd guitarist (and manager), Paul Nelson, Vito Liuzzi on drums and Scott Spray on bass – came out and played their signature “intro jam”. Towards the end of the jam, Winter was escorted to his chair where he held court and effortless blew through the gem, Hideaway.

    Many crowd favorites were played. One of them, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, was wild and I mean wild. That song kicked the door in for Got My Mojo Working, which brought the entire theater to its feet.

    One personal favorite from the gig were, of course, Johnny B. Goode. I’m telling you, Johnny and the band drove that song like they stole it! If it’s a treat to see Winter in concert, it’s icing on the cake to witness him play this rock classic.

    The other personal favorite was when Winter brought out his old friend, sax man Jon Smith for the song, Black Jack.

    To say that the Johnny Winter concert at the Granada Theater was jaw-dropping good would be a complete understatement. The show put me in the rare position of being so enthralled with his incredible talent on the guitar, as well as the incredible musicianship of his band, I literally forgot to write down any of the songs that the man played.

    To watch Winter walk out on stage and just start stomping out the blues was mesmerizing. I am not a musician. I don’t even play one on TV. However, I’m one of those odd ducks that enjoy watching the techniques of great musicians as they perform their craft. In watching Johnny do his thang on the six string, it’s obvious that he’s forgotten more about playing the blues than any of us would ever hope to know.

    Winter played his set list with such familiarity that he seldom glanced at the fret board as he played. His long, slender fingers effortlessly flowed all over his guitar as he alternatively played lead and rhythm.

    For me, the highlight of the show was Winter’s treatment of the blues standard, Red House. Watching him play the great tune made me feel that I was somehow watching a rare, historic event. And to think his performance at Woodstock with his brother, Edgar, didn’t make the movie’s original cut!

    Johnny’s band included guitarist and manager, Paul Nelson, who was almost equally as mesmerizing to watch as Winter; Scott Spray provided excellent, steady bass work while Vito Liuzzi pounded the skins as well as any great professional drummer I’ve ever heard.

    The opening act was a man that I had never heard of before but, I promise you, I’ll never forget. His name is Mike Zito and all I can say is “WOW!”. Zito’s guitar work blew me away – especially when he performed the title cut from his latest CD, Pearl River. There’s just something about a great guitar player that’s part of a great three piece band. Zito joined Winter on the stage for one song but I could’ve watched them both jam all night.

    Keep an eye on this guy - he’s good – REALLY good!

    This was the first concert I’ve experienced in the Granada Theater. It’s an intimate and comfortable venue with dinner tables and descent food available at reasonable rates. All of the staff that I came in contact with were helpful and friendly. I’m looking forward to seeing many more shows at this place. You should, too.

    To find out if Johnny Winter is playing in your neck of the woods or to just keep up with the latest news about him, check out his website, www.johnnywinter.net. While you’re there, check out his store and bring your music library up to date.

  • Johnny Winter and Paul Nelson (2012)

    Posted January, 2012

    In this line of work (interviewing artists), it’s always a personal thrill and honor for me to be able to hear icons share their thoughts and stories with me and to the Boomerocity readers.  The icing on the cake is when an icon agrees to a second interview with Boomerocity.   It’s happened a few times in Boomerocity’s 3+ year history and it’s recently happened yet again with rock and blues great, Johnny Winter.

    My first interview with the veteran of Woodstock (here) took place almost two years ago prior to an appearance he was about to make in Dallas.  Low and behold, the second interview took place under the same circumstances.  I learned from my last interview with Winter - as well as from the research I conducted for both interviews - that he is a man of few words.  However, like a well written song that has just the right amount of notes, Johnny’s words convey his thoughts crisply and succinctly.  Nothing more. Nothing less.  The man is not one to hide anything.

    As he’s said in interviews with me as well as with many other people, pretty much everything there is to know about him is out there – especially in his authorized biography, Raisin’ Cain.  You may wince and what all has happened in his life and the demons that he’s battled but it is what it is. Take it or leave it.

    The rock and roll rollercoaster that was, and is, Johnny Winter’s life is well known and documented.  Many people counted the prodigious guitarist down for the count many times over the years.  While they certainly couldn’t be faulted for doing so, Winter has proved them all wrong and is enjoying quite a resurgence in his popularity thanks in large part to the caring, guiding hand of Paul Nelson. Nelson not only serves as Johnny’s manager but is also his wing man (2nd guitarist) on stage.

    Nelson stepped into a very toxic environment that, if it hadn’t changed, would have surely resulted in the premature death of Winter.  It was a long, gradual, methodical process but with genuine concern, patience and sound business and marketing practices, Johnny Winter’s career has taken a turn for the best and reaching a whole new group of fans.

    In chatting with Paul about some background info, I complimented him on his solid job in helping Winter. He shared that, “You know, as a fan, I wanted to do what a fan would do for him and as a musician I wanted to do for him what I would want – what any musician would want to have done if they were having trouble. You have to wear a lot of hats in this business. There was a lot of stuff in his ‘system’ and a lot of stuff had to stop. It takes a lot of time and patience and you really can’t be swayed by other two cents… like, ‘Why isn’t he doing this? Why isn’t he doing that?  You just have to keep focused like a horse with blinders. Then, all of a sudden, people turn around and say, ‘Wow! What happened?’ It took about six years since I’ve been managing him but now he’s off of everything, which is great!”

    I caught up by phone with Johnny and Paul as they were on their tour bus in route to a gig in Massachusetts.

    As Johnny and I make small talk in getting the interview started, I asked how the road was treating him these days, he responded with his characteristic brevity. “Pretty good. It’s the road.”

    Well, with this particular tour, I assumed that Winter’s set is comprised mostly of tunes from your latest CD, Roots, and asked if that was the case.“Oh, we do a couple of songs off the record.”

    And what is the reaction to the tunes from the fans?

     “Real, real good. They’re likin’ Dust My Broom and Got My Mojo Workin’”.

     According to my research, “Roots” is Johnny’s 18th studio solo album since 1968. He has observed a lot of changes in recording technology and process since that album, The Progressive Blues Experiment.  While those changes are obvious, I was curious as to what is the same for him in recording blues today as compared to that first album.

    “Yeah, it’s changed a lot but I still do it pretty much the same way. The technology’s changed but I don’t really deal with that.”

    In one of the Winter interviews I had read, he was asked, when practicing, what scales he liked to play.  He said something to the effect that he just copied the sounds of other artists and played by ear.  I turned the scenario around on him and asked if he was aware of anyone who was copying his licks.

    “Oh, sure, and it’s very flattering. There’s a guy out in California. He plays a lot like me. He sounds almost like me. It’s kinda scary.”

    Back to the Roots CD, Paul Nelson (who both produced and performed on the record) said,  “All those vocals on the new Roots CD,  where all first takes!  We couldn’t believe it.  We were all just stunned!  His singing was great!  This album had to be good!  The music doesn’t lie. If he wasn’t healthy enough, then people would say, ‘Oh, okay, maybe he’s gettin’ a little better but . . .’.   Anyway he was phenomenal. He did a really good job. I knew it was time for him to record.”

    Every artist, when planning to record an album, has their own process by which they determine what songs will go on their album.  I drilled him about what guided him in his song selection for Roots, he said, “I just took songs that I really liked. I could’ve picked thousands more but I picked some of my favorites.”

    ‘Nuff said.

    When I asked if there’ll be a Roots sequel, Johnny tells me all I really need to know.  “There probably will.”

    As discussed in the Boomerocity review of Roots upon its release (here), there are a boat load of highly talented guest artists lending a hand.  Great folks like Johnny’s brother, Edgar, Derek Trucks and his lovely wife, Susan Tedeschi, John Popper from Blues Traveller, country guitar slinger, Vince Gill, organist, John Medeski, and guitarists Sonny Landreth and Jimmy Vivino all lend incredible sounds to this project.

    In commenting on the guest roster, Johnny “I knew everybody but John Popper. I had met everybody before except for Popper. My manager, Paul, brought ‘em all together.”

    I was especially intrigued by Johnny’s inclusion of Vince Gill on the Chuck Berry classic, Maybellene. “Yeah, he is. He is good!  Yeah, he’s a country guitar player but he’s a really good country guitar player.”

    I expected that Roots to have taken a long time to put together with all of the talent that was on the album.  However, I was stunned at the answer I received from Johnny when I asked him about it.

    “It was about a month. I was only in the studio for about five hours but the whole thing took about a month.”

    Five hours.  I mean, seriously? Five hours?  Unreal.

    A recent high point in Winter’s resurgence was his January 12th appearance with his band on The Late Show With David Letterman.  Paul and Johnny were rightfully still jonesing from the success of that appearance when Paul said, “He (Winter) looked great. He’s healthy. He was singing his butt off and playing great and to have (Paul) Shaffer and the horns kick in, it was a big event – really cool! We had a great time!”

    As indicated in the Boomerocity review of Winter’s biography, Raisin’ Cain, the tome was given very high marks (see the review here).  Winter is obviously very proud of the book judging by his comment to me about it. “Yeah!  We’ve sold three or four editions out. The book is doing well. I didn’t write it. Mary Lou (Sullivan) interviewed me and pretty much wrote what I said. ”

    As for what Winter’s fans can expect from the band during this year’s touring, Johnny replied, “I’ll do mostly blues and a little rock and roll.”  Nelson added, “What happened was, after the Roots idea, and after Johnny picked the songs, I had to make sure that the band - the rhythm section - had learned all of the original versions of the songs that Johnny listened to when he grew up. Then, I had them learn a secondary version – a second version of each of those songs. What happened was that the group as a whole improved. We got more ‘simpler’. We got more pure into that traditional sound but then modernized the sound on Roots. We knew that we had to be a tight rhythm section for Johnny and the heavy hitters we would be playing for on the album.

    “It improved our  live show and the music is more driving. It’s more solid. The song selection is tighter now. Johnny has added Bony Moronie,  Johnny B. Goode. He’s added School Girl – you know, some of the more rock’ish kind of songs mixed in with the blues.  Highway 61. The show is actually now – finally – now that Johnny’s healthy, he’s starting to experiment more and improve and add more of the old catalog and new stuff. So, it’s a lot different. A lot more energy.

     “Another thing: You’ll see a camera crew running around everywhere we are. We hired Greg Oliver – he just finished the Motorhead Lemmy DVD  - the documentary – and he’s doing a documentary on Johnny over the next year. He’s going to do the in-story, we’re going to go by Johnny’s house in Beaumont (Texas), we’re going to go to the old high school there, the Vulcan Gas Company (a music venue in Austin, Texas).  He followed us to Letterman – everything. So, it’s a big deal.”

    When I asked if my personal favorite Winter cover, Jumpin’ Jack Flack, was being played, Nelson shed some interesting light on the tune with his answer.  “We’re still working on it. He goes back to it but he doesn’t want to go too far back to his rock roots. He realizes that that period was important but he really felt that he sold out the blues so anything that resembles that, he shies away from. We put the riffs from it in the rhythm section – we sneak ‘em in and he wails over it and he cracks up.  We’ll do Boney Moronie and, in the verses, we’ll sneak in a riff from Mean Town Blues and then the rhythm section will start doing the riff from Jumpin’ Jack Flash and he just smiles. It’s pretty funny. A lot of fun.”

    When I told Johnny and Paul that the upcoming show at the Granada has been sold out, Paul was bubbling over with excitement and added, “He’s selling out everywhere. People are starting to realize – especially now that he’s healthy – that they don’t want to miss out on Johnny. He’s that hidden gem that deserves the credit that might have passed him by and went more towards a Hendrix or a Clapton.  He’s our living Hendrix! I’m serious!

    “People are starting to research him more now. Now that he’s having a resurgence, there’s more material out on him now – more of the Bootleg Series, the DVD’s . They’re getting it.   Plus that Rolling Stone thing – top guitarist or whatever – he’s definitely having a comeback. When I tell Johnny, ‘Johnny your  having a comeback’, he says, ‘But I never went anywhere!?’ ‘I laugh and say, ‘Just go with it. Johnny!’   He’s really having a good time.”

    I asked what the biggest misconception about him is, Johnny laughed and said, “Only my close friends know what I’m really like.” I could hear Paul laughing in the background.  And then, more seriously, adds, “ I don’t think there’s really any big misconception about me. People pretty much know what I’m like.” I added that he just puts himself out there and people can take it or leave it, he admits, “Yeah, that’s true.”

    As he handed the phone off to Paul, I told him that I was looking forward to a good show at his upcoming Dallas appearance.  He said, point blank, “You’ll get one.”   As they say in his home state of Texas, if it’s true, it ain’t braggin’.

    With the great vibe Johnny’s enjoying with his resurgence, I asked a question that I know has been asked and answered a million times but I wanted the latest answer: Will Johnny be doing anything with his brother, Edgar, and even with Rick Derringer?

    Let’s just say that what I was told made me pogo-stick happy and you’ll feel the same way, too, when the news hits the streets.  Keep your eye on Boomerocity for that news to break.

    Until then, you can check out JohnnyWinter.net to see when and where he’s going to be performing near you.  You’ll see that he’s keeping a tour schedule that would wear out an artist that is less than half his age so there’s a great chance he’s stopping at a venue in your town.

  • Knighted By The Blues

    knightedbythebluescoverKnighted By The Blues
    Artist: Rick Derringer
    Label: Blues Bureau International
    Reviewed: May, 2009

    “Knighted By The Blues” clocks in as Rick Derringer’s 40th album/CD in his long and legendary career. This doesn’t even count the countless discs that he’s played and/or produced with many other artists or, for that matter, the myriad of soundtracks that he’s either worked on or his work was used.

    To say that “Knighted” is a “must own” by Derringer fans would be an understatement. His signature guitar work is as great as ever and his voice doesn’t seem to have changed one bit since “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” was first released. How many of us can say that?

    This album is a huge treat! It’s hard for me to pick just one favorite tune so I’ll narrow it to two . . . but it’s a hard “two” to pick. Okay, I’m going to make it three and in no particular order, alright? Those three songs are the title cut, the incredible “Sometimes” and “If 6 Was 9”, which is a tune written and recorded by Jimi Hendrix on his “Axis: Bold As Love” LP.

    The album’s namesake song, “Knighted By The Blues”, is a great, slow blues tune that is sure to chill out its listener on the first play. Rick’s vocals are smooth as is his fret work. While listening to this cut repeatedly, it began to make me wonder if the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn wasn’t influenced by Derringers interpretation of the blues. I suppose that we’ll never know.

    The one song that Rick says is commanding a lot of attention by the radio stations is “Sometimes”, and I can see why. When you hear this song for the first time, it grabs you by the ears and doesn’t let you go until it’s darn well ready to. Be warned! Don’t listen to this song while driving. There’s something about the tune that makes you want to put the pedal to the metal and make the roads melt.spacerun: yes;"> This song is destined to be a crowd pleaser for Rick for years to come. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear this song used in a car commercial or some incredible scene in a movie. It’s THAT good!

    Derringer’s interpretation of Hendrix’s, “If 6 Was 9”, would make Jimi stand up and take notice. Besides the fact that seeing Hendrix stand up today would scare the rain right out of our clouds, I would dare say that Rick’s version would give the original a run for its money. I don’t think Jimi would mind a bit. Can you imagine what it would sound like to hear Hendrix and Derringer jam together? Dwell on that thought for a minute or two!

  • Lance Lopez Live In NYC

         

    Lance Lopez Live in NYC
    Lance Lopez
    Label: Cleopatra Blues
    Release Date: February 3, 2016
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Unless you’re a hard core blues fan, there’s a better than even chance that you may not have heard of Lance Lopez. If so, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.

    A friend and a protégé, of sorts, of the late, great Johnny Winter, Lopez as been lighting up the blues scene across the country (but ‘specially in Texas) since he was fourteen years young.

    Lopez’s latest offering is actually one of two new discs that he’s put out (the other being the debut record of his super group, Supersonic Blues Machine. See our review of it on Boomerocity.). Live In NYC is Lance’s new live album that was never intended to be recorded. 

    Performing in NYC at B.B. King’s for the late Johnny Winter’s last birthday party, the gig was recorded, unbeknownst to Lance. A few months later, Winter’s wing man, Paul Nelson, called up Lopez to say that he was listening to some great music from that night and wanted to put it out as record. The result is “Lance Lopez Live In NYC”.

    Chock full raw, blues and energy, the disc show that Lance Lopez clearly has the Johnny Winter’s mantel upon his shoulders, heavy with the dust from the crossroads. 

    Yeah, it – and he – is that good.

    Lance Lopez Live In NYC is one of THE must-have blues albums of 2016.

     

     

  • 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. 

  • Mike Zito

    Posted July, 2011

    Last summer, my daughter and I had a father/daughter date, going to see one of rock and blues icons from my youth, Johnny Winter.  As I wrote in my review of the show (here), the opening act blew my daughter and I away.  It was a three piece band that was fronted by its namesake, Mike Zito.

    While seeing Johnny Winter perform will go down in my mind as one of the all time personal thrills of mine, I was struck and impressed by the power, presence and performance of Zito.  How would one describe it?  Hmmm.  I think that I would call it a fun, non-conceited swagger that can only come when one has a healthy assessment of their abilities and having a ton of fun demonstrating those abilities to the enjoyment of others.

    As my daughter and I left the show, I swung by the product table that displayed Zito’s CD’s and such and picked up a business card shaped magnet that read, “Peace Love Zito” and his website, MikeZito.com.

    That magnet lay on my little jewelry and phone collector thingy in my closet for since that time, serving as a reminder that I really must try to score an interview with this remarkable talent. In fact, it did so for dang near a year until this year, as I was studying the line-up of talent that was going to appear the Dallas International Guitar Festival back in April, I saw that blues’ Italian stallion was going to play there.

    After the beam of light from Heaven went away and the angels finished singing from on high, signifying that it was time for me to pursue the interview, that’s exactly what I did. The result was a great visit after his performance that included sharing the stage with Ryan McGarvey and Anders Osborne.

    I knew that Zito had an album that was lined up to be released so I asked him about it.

    “It’s called Greyhound and I recorded it in Lafayette, Louisiana, at Dock Side Studio. Anders Osborne produced it. The guys that played today, Carl DuFrene (bass) and Bernie Blade (drums, and played with Dave Matthews and Friends) are also on it and it comes out on July 19th on Eclecto Groove Records.”

    When I asked if the album was along the same vein as his previous CD, Pearl River, his eyes lit up as he excitedly described it to me.

    “It’s a little more rock and roll. My first album was more what I like to do. The second album – I like to play blues, too, and it had other songs on it but we did a little more blues. So, I’ve been writing songs. I didn’t want to worry about making it a type of genre. I just wanted to record the songs. So, we did it when we went into the studio.  These guys (DuFrene and Blade) never played with me, never rehearsed with me. We just started jamming on something and then we pressed “record”.  That’s how we did it – the whole thing in two or three days. It’s got a real good, like, ‘hold on – don’t hold your breath’ feel. It’s got a ‘I hope it all works out’ kind of sound.”

    The passion he exhibited about the project welled up even more when I asked if the vibe on the album was similar to the incredible performance that I had just witnessed just a few minutes prior.

    “Yeah, the song I did today is called Hello Midnight and it’s on there. It’s definitely a little more rock and roll. It’s guitar, bass and drums – two guitars, bass and drums. It’s definitely bluesy – maybe some elements of Texas country in there with the songs. I like Texas country a lot! So, it’s got a little bit of that in it. And there’s definitely lead guitar and jammin’.”

    The Dallas International Guitar Festival is a magnet for musicians of all levels. They come from all over the globe to attend the show, looking for their idea of the Holy Grail of guitars.  I asked Mike what his idea of a six stringed Holy Grail was and did he already own it.

    “You know, that’s a good question. I don’t have any holy grails at this point. I used to. I used to always have in my mind, ‘Oh! There’s one out there that I gotta have!’ And I guarantee you, there are plenty of guitars here that I gotta have! But at some point you have to learn to be happy with what you’ve got. And I’ve had so many guitars over the years.  I’ve just sold them and traded them. I just thought that I had to have this one and had to have that one. And, really, you just need to play and practice a little more, you know? I’ve got, maybe, six or seven electric guitars. I’ve got more than enough. I play the same one all the time.”

    As he points to his nearby guitar that he played on stage earlier, he adds, “That one there is made by Delaney Guitars in Atlanta.  It’s a handmade one. He (Mike Delaney) custom made it so I could tell him what I specifically wanted rather than getting my Fenders and having to soup them up or whatever. It just feels good. It’s easy. It’s great. I haven’t stopped playing it since I got it. It’s a gorgeous guitar! Every serious guitar player should try a Delaney guitar.  If they do, they’ll wind up ordering one, they’re that great.”

    As we chatted, we both shared our admiration of Anders Osborne and Ryan McGarvey.  I asked Zito how long he knew these incredibly talented musicians.

    “Anders I’ve know of and known who he was for long time. I met Anders maybe three or four years ago. We have the same manager. He used to manage them and then they got back together. Anders and I went on an acoustic tour called The Southern Troubadours. That’s when we got to be real close – got to be friends. Then he wrote a song for me that’s on the Pearl River CD called One Step At A Time – we recorded it together. And then we played shows together.  He’s really been getting into the electric guitar in the past year or two – really getting into it. So we talked about guitars and amps.  I got him with Category Five. Then he produced my new record. It was really fun because he’s really into electric guitars. He’s an amazing guitar player. Always has been. But he’s been focused on other things. Now he’s really enjoying the guitar. So, we recorded this album and, with him there, it has really big guitar sounds.

    “Ryan? I met Ryan a couple of years ago at the Mile High Blues Festival. He went out and played and I was really blown away. He’s an amazing guitar player!”

    I shared my story with Mike as to how I came to be aware of him and asked him what it was like playing with such a huge blues legend like Johnny Winter.

    “He’s one of my all time favorite. Period. We’re with the same agency so we started playing shows, opening for him. That was awesome. But, that night at the Granada was the first time he brought me out and let me play with him. That was a dream come true. Absolutely!  The last show we did together in December - astounding! He blew me away! He played stuff that I never heard him play live - since I’ve seen him.  He was wailing! He’s doing great!  He’s got a new album coming out. The guy from Gov’t. Mule, Warren Haynes, is producing it. It’s going to be a big record.”

    I asked who else he has played with that he admires a lot.

    “Well, I’ve played with Buddy Guy. I used to play at Buddy Guy’s club. That was really great. I’ve played with Joe Bonamassa. Of course, the guys in my camp, Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne. There’s been quite a few that I’ve been real excited to get to play with.”

    And who’s on his “bucket list” to jam with?

    “Well, I’d love to play with B.B. King or Eric Clapton. I’d love to play with those guys. Jeff Beck.”

    Our conversation made its way around Zito’s near term and long term plans.  Again, he speaks with passion and determination.

    “I’m really planning on touring to support the album. I’m really trying to cross over. I love the blues. I like to write songs. I really like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty – more American kind of rock and roll. It’s bluesy. I would love to get a song on the radio and go on tour with some of those guys. I love playing guitar. There’s so many guys who play guitar better than me. They’re all fantastic. I just know how to do what I do. But I like to sing and do my songs. I think that’s when I can step up is when I can do my own thing. So, I’m really pushing that. We’re doing all of the blues festivals and all of that. Today was really fun. After a while, I run out of ideas to play on the guitar. I’m better doing my songs. So, I hope that we can cross it over. I’m calling everybody I know to try and get them to help me – get on a tour and open for somebody. That’s what I’m putting all of my energy into because I think that it’s the best record I’ve ever made.”

    “The five year plan is to make this record work!” He says with a laugh. “I really want to make it work. I mean, I love the blues world. We’ve been going to Europe and doing all of the blues fests and they love it. I would be more than happy to get to play blues, travel and take care of my family. So, if this album doesn’t quite do what I want it to do, I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing and have fun.”

    As has often been the case over the years at the Dallas International Guitar Festival, you will often rub shoulders with artists from all genres.  For instance, last year, among the artists that I met wondering the aisles of booths looking at guitar gear were Journey’s Neal Schon and Bruce Kulick (formerly of Kiss).

    This year is no exception as the “who’s who” of music wondering the aisles.  As Mike and I were talking, he stops immediately and hollers at Greg Martin from the Kentucky Headhunters.  He asks me if I can pardon him for a moment and he quickly walks over to Martin.  When he gets back returns, Mike said, “That’s Greg Martin from the Kentucky Headhunters!” I’ve found that, in those circles of greatness, egos are left at the door (if they’re even carried around) and an artist’s love of music, their craft and the appreciation of other talent is front and center.  Zito’s almost fanlike exuberance when seeing Martin was as real and sincere as any other Headhunter fan.

    It is always refreshing to watch as one great talent is humble enough to recognize and honor other great talent and Mike repeatedly demonstrated that to me as we chatted with the encounter with Martin as a prime example.  Zito is a class act on many levels.

    My pre-interview research on Mike revealed that, as a consequence of a continuous touring schedule that covered the nation, he ultimately found himself tangled in the hopeless web of alcohol and drugs.  It took none other than blues great, Walter Trout, having the love and compassion to care enough to have a chat with Zito about where his life was heading.  Trout had been down the same road and knew all too well what the outcome would be if Mike did make a change of heart and life.  He reminded Zito that, because of the musical gift he had been blessed with, he had a responsibility to perform his music honestly and to demonstrate and perfect his craft.

    This loving intervention set Mike on the path of sobriety.  He met a lovely woman who became his wife. He credits her love and support in helping turn his life around for over seven years now.  I asked Zito about that experience and how it affects him today as far as how he approaches his career.

    “You mean recovery wise? Sobriety?  Oh, man!  I mean, night and day because I don’t even think that I even approached it (the music and his career) before. I just had all of these aspirations or dreams that I thought would just magically appear because I was supposed to be so great – but I’m not!  I never tried. I just ran around in circles. And then I thought that I’d never get to play music again. I thought I’d never be able to do it. But, after about a year sober, I started playing again and I started realizing that, if I was in a good frame of mind and spiritually fit, I could do whatever I want!

    “And, man! I started thinking, ‘OKAY!  I’m going to find a way to make this work!’ because I would play, get paid and bring the money home and I’m like, ‘Hold on. I think that I can do this!’ because I would give all the money away and not pay the band and owe money because of drugs.

    “So I started working, playing gigs and making it a business – approaching it like, ‘This could be a business. I can really make this work.’ That’s what’s paid off. I mean, I might have some talent and I might be good at this or that – and I do continually try to get better and there are plenty of people who are just as good or even better. But, I show up on time. I do a good job. I’m nice enough. I do everything I can, you know?  Just like I would if I were to work at your Fortune 500 company. I’d start in the mail room. If I was in the right frame of mind and I wanted to do this, I would work my way all the way up!  They don’t always take the guy that’s the best. It’s the guy that works hard and does a good job.

    “That’s what’s really been working for me. The music we play is not fancy or anything special about it. It’s just honest and straight forward. We work very hard at making sure that it sounds good. I tell you, man, that approach has got me sitting here with you, playing here today. I mean, it made things really move forward quickly.

    “I learned that from a guy back home named Scott McGill. He’s a very famous guitar player. He lives in Beaumont and when I met him, I said, ‘Man, I’ve heard that you’re the best guitar player around.’ And he is! ‘He said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I am but I’m the best one that shows up.’  And I was like, ‘Huh? What?’  He said, ‘I’m the best one that shows up. There are better guys but they’re all on drugs but I’m the best one that shows up and does a good job.’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Alright!’  I think that there’s something that can be said about that. That’s why I’m drawn to the same kind of people. I love Bruce Sprinsteen and I love Stevie Ray Vaughn because when he got clean and sober, he really stuck to what he did. This is what I do! I keep doing it and try to get better at it. To me, I think that people can relate to that at whatever they do.’”

    “I don’t know why – even if it isn’t your best because maybe you’re tired and didn’t sleep or you don’t feel good – I don’t know why you wouldn’t do the best you can because I think that’s what people see. They see that there may be somebody better but who cares? Better is relevant. I think that’s what moves people because you’ve given them everything you’ve got. I honestly think that people can tell the crap from real and real always wins!”

    It’s that realness that Mike talks about that I came away from our interview thinking about.  His love of his music and his craft, his wife and kids, and his love for life itself exudes from the very core of his being.  He’s obviously a man who knows that he’s been given not only a God-given talent but an incredible second chance to do what he was placed on this earth to do: write and play music.

    You can check out more on Mike Zito at www.mikezito.com. There you can sign up for his free e-mail updates, link to his Facebook and Twitter profiles and, most importantly, load up on his incredible body of work – especially his upcoming CD, Greyhound!

  • Paul Nelson Discusses Johnny Winter and Badass Generation

    June, 2016

    thepaulnelsonbandIt isn’t a stretch at all to say that Johnny Winter was one of the preeminent blues men of our time. Revered and respected, we lost him far too soon on July 14th 2014.

    Before his death, I had the privilege of interviewing Johnny twice. Both interviews were orchestrated by his dear friend and manager, Paul Nelson. I recently interviewed Paul about his new album (included with this interview in its entirety on Boomerocity.com) but we started our chat about his late friend. At the outset, I said that, while I didn’t want to make this a “puff piece,” I also didn’t want this to a negative chat about his late, dear friend. Nelson jumped right on the comment.

    “You know what? Everything was common knowledge. Even Johnny asked back in the day, ‘Should I be talking about this stuff?’ I go ‘yes.’ I go, “You need to say everything that you did. You went down to the dumps and came back up, and I know if you can that, do it at full swing. That’s what we gotta do. Plus, it’s going to be educational for people and you can help some people get off of drugs and this and that.’

    So he was totally open about the shape he was in and what he was doing, so it’s all good.”

    This was our first chat since Winter’s passing so I asked about how it had been for him in the days immediately after his dear friend’s death.

    “It wasn’t easy. There is a lot of family involved, the band involved, but we put together the Johnny Winter All-Star shows, and that was great to honor Johnny. It was therapeutic for the band as well. And we still do it. We’re doing a series of these in February and March, the movie’s coming out, March 4 “Down and Dirty.” We had guests. I went to Jamaica, we did it with Govt. Mule and Warren Haynes and Sonny (Landreth) – good friends of mine. Edgar (Winter, Johnny’s brother) did one – actually, online at Buddy Guy’s at his Legends club. Ronnie Baker Brooks, Debbie Davies, Joe Lewis Walker, Earl Slick, Mike Zito.

    “So we’ve been doing tons of these. It’s kind of like the Jimi Hendrix Experience thing. That started off as one show of B. B. King’s. It was birthday celebration for Hendrix. Johnny and I were on it and they developed to what you see now, this touring thing.

    “We’ve lost so many important artists, each one, even B. B. King has the B. B. King All-Star Band. His drummer, T. C., put that together. It’s important for everyone. We have to keep his music going and it’s like I said, the movie’s coming out so is what we do, is they screen the movie at these concerts and then they see us play. These are the original members and we also have original members from Johnny’s past. Bobby Torello, the guy that played on previous albums and previous tours. So we’ve been doing that.

    “Johnny had such a comeback toward the end, he got so much healthier except he had the emphysema, which finally was his downfall. But other than that, people saw this resurgence and that actually what the movie’s about, among other things about rock history; his history, and Blues.”

    The last time Nelson and I talked about three or four years ago, I met with him and Johnny when they were appearing in Dallas. Johnny’s favorite guitar had just recently been stolen. I asked Paul if the guitar had ever been recovered.

    “Yes, and the reason why we found it was because I didn’t publicize it. The key is to never publicize something like that because then it goes deeper and deeper into hiding. Luckily a fan saw it at a store being sold by someone else. He notified us, sent it over and we got the Laser back. It was stolen in Massachusetts. We got it back and that’s one of those rare things. You have an instrument like that and what can you do with it? The biggest fear is that it goes into hibernation and then comes back decades. Do not open until 2050. It worked.”

    Before we switched to chatting about Paul’s new CD, I asked him for some closing thoughts about Johnny, maybe something about him that might surprise fans or something that he’d like to share that maybe they’re not hearing about the late blues master.

    “He had a great sense of humor. Not only was he a great musician artist, but his love for the Blues made him, and I’ve only seen a few like this, like Billy Gibbons, Bill Wax, who works Bluesville, Dick Sherman, the producer. Blues historians, just knew everything about who played this, who was on this recording, who had the drinking problem or all the little nuances of the Blues, he knew everything and I was honored that he took me under his wing and that he turned me onto that. ‘Get this album and listen to this specific list, instead of going out and buying all the records by Chuck Berry, or all the records by different people.’ This is what I learned. This is what we all learned back in the day. That was great.

    “On the tour bus, he listened to Blues. He had 15,000 songs on his IPod and he listened to it from when he awoke until showtime and then afterwards, every day. He was just constantly inputting that information and then he would, those lists would come up during that night’s performance. He was a sponge.

    “He was a great guy. At the end of those past few years, he was totally clean. A lot of people don’t know I had him get laser surgery. He was no longer legally blind. That was a big deal. And then, of course, the methadone was gone, the drinking was gone, the smoking was gone. He was really enjoying his life toward the end. He was completely free of all that stuff, and the fans were noticing it. The way he was performing, that’s why it was so important to put out that record, Roots, Step Back, which got he and I the Grammies. What’s so important is that his voice was so strong, his playing was so much stronger, so that was the key. And then when we appeared on Letterman, he hadn’t been on TV because of his health. But this was a huge thing in TV, you can’t really lie. He had added a couple of pounds but other than that, he performed. He heard the whole record. And this movie, he saw the whole movie as well. He did witness everything that’s coming out now; which was important.”

    I asked Nelson if he felt Winter would like how he’s being remembered and what his legacy is so far?

    “Absolutely. There was a reason why he wasn’t up there with his cohorts and his old johnnywinterband colormanagement, he pushed the envelope too. He made Ozzy Osborne look like he had training wheels. But once that was cleaned up, everybody started realizing what an important piece of the puzzle Johnny was and how Rolling Stone should’ve mentioned him in the top 10 at least. I mean, it’s Hendrix, Johnny and, then (Stevie Ray) Vaughan. A lot of people don’t know that Stevie Ray Vaughan used to come over to Johnny’s in Texas and hang around with him. Johnny would teach him riffs.

    “So Vaughan was Johnny’s student. It’s that important. I think that the Grammy solidified it. The TV appearances, Crossroads, these were all important things for him. I was honored that he trusted me enough and we were close friends, to help this out, to know what had to be done to get him back to that position.

    "And, now, you have to buy Johnny’s stuff, you have to listen to Johnny. The whole jam band resurgence is the way Johnny played. His connections with the Allman Brothers, his connections with Hendrix, his connections with The Beatles, his connection with Janis Joplin, his connections with Vaughan, he was everywhere in musical history for decades. Every major event. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, the 90s were bad years. The movie described that. The movie is very enlightening about what happens. People are going to be surprised. They’ll finally see the man behind the music.”

    Shifting to Nelson’s new CD, I asked him what was the story and motivation behind it and what did he set out to accomplish when he started making the album.

    “I’ve been studying music for years. I studied with Steve Vai, with Michael Stern, Steve Kahn. I’ve toured with other bands and produced. Johnny was like, “Paul I know you’ve done a lot of other stuff, but I’m glad you just play blues with me. And we get along musically first.” That was first and foremost. He said, “I know no, you can play like Rick Derringer and do all that stuff.”

    "We were always battling on guitar. He goes, “I like the fact that I know that you can play like that, but you don’t so that I can do my thing and we compliment each other really well.” And he was really proud of that, so that was cool.

    "That musical background of all these styles that he recognized, he was actually going to be on this (CD). When Johnny passed, you have to continue on. We’re all artists, musicians, we have to do our thing so I continued playing, producing and all that. But I knew I wanted to do my own thing. I had done my own solo album - an instrumental thing – very ‘Eric Johnsony – before that, called “Look.” I had this singer that I’d produced a couple of years ago, and I had my eye on him from when I was working with his band; then the bass player, Chris Redan the drummer from Popa Chubby, Chris Alexander from Samantha Fish and then Morton Fredheim, who was actually number two on The Voice over in Europe. I said, ‘Let’s get together and start writing material.’

    “So they came over and this stuff just started flowing out of me because I had such a great singer. This guy was like Paul Rogers on steroids. And then all of sudden it was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I thought this was going to be this type of album?’ This stuff just spewed out of us. It was like retro, paying tribute to the 70s type of stuff, which everybody loves; but at the same time, it’s current.

    “So all the different styles starting coming out, Jam, Southern Rock, Blues, and the lyrics started coming out of me; the music started coming out of me and it just happened.

    “I got signed with Sony. They said, ‘We’ll put it out in February’ and then I have a separate deal with Sony Japan that comes out in April. I really wanted to write songs though. It’s inspirational when you work with a singer, though I didn’t want - there’s a real lack of front man nowadays. Now it’s just guitar players and singing. I’m going to be the one who changes it, but everybody professes that they love that kind of music, but then when you ask them to do it, they go, ‘Oh no.’ They’ve played guitars for years and then all of sudden they’re singers in a week. Now that I have a singer, the lyrics flow out. It’s so inspirational when you’re writing something and you know that you have the tools and the players to not worry whether it’s going to be good or not. It’s going to develop. While I’m writing this I go, ‘Boy, is this going to be something else when these guys get a hold of it’ and that’s what was happening. We made this real diverse package and, if you see the cover, it’s a cassette. That’s paying tribute to the past, but at the same time, ‘Bad Ass Generation’ refers to the term that everybody uses now to describe stuff, ‘Bad Ass.’ So, it’s us now appreciating from the past but still making sure that it’s current. And it’s doing really well.”

    When I asked Paul how long it took to make the album, I was astonished by his answer.

    "Three weeks, four weeks. I’m very particular and I had some good people working. I had an engineer, Phil Magnotti. He’s got like three Grammies, so he mixed it. I produced it. We really worked hard on it. The actual material was written in seven days."

    Did it come out the way he wanted it to?

    "Even better. There’s a million musicians saying that about their album as we speak, but I was really happy the way it came out because I used recording techniques of the past, but recording techniques of now. We recorded the drums a certain way, the guitars a certain way, the vocals a certain way. But we used today’s sound to beef that up. What if Boston recorded today? What if those guys recorded those same songs now and that kind of thing? We really analyzed and studied the school of the 70s before we started cooking, and then it just came out."

    I asked if there was anything he did on the album that was like ‘I always wanted to do this in the studio and now’s my chance to do it?’ to which he replied:

    “The whole thing was like that. I wanted to write and record stuff that reminded me of the stuff that influenced me. Luckily, everyone else was like that, as well. Aerosmith influences. Led Zeppelin influences. Tom Petty influences. All the other influences. We are at a really good time right now. Warren Haynes is a really close friend to all those guys. When you see the shows that are going on now, you’ll have someone play a blues song for the audience and then, all of a sudden, they’re playing a tribute to AC/DC. Then, they may be doing War Pigs from Sabbath and, then all of sudden, they’re doing Whipping Post. Then, all of sudden, Warren will bring out Scofield and now they’re doing Fusion. It’s the same crowd and they are looking going, ‘What?’

    “I think the audiences are being groomed to be more open, which allows the artist to put more diverse stuff on one album. It’s not like you have to do this and you can’t change it, you can’t add any instrumentation, you can’t leave the blues world; you can’t leave the rock world, that kind of thing. Even Johnny got a lot of crap from being a rock/blues guy. He just wanted to be a blues purist. He hated when he was on top for rock. He thought he sold himself short, but now it’s okay to do that.

    “We are at a good time. I thought that this album’s timing was perfect. It’s really getting a lot of airplay and catching people’s ears because the content, the lyric, the songs.”

    As for what song Nelson would select as a “calling card” for the whole CD, he said:

    “Actually, the tracks were placed strategically. The albums of the past - songs were put in to build up the listener, then bring them down, and then bring them back up at the crescendo at the end. That’s what going on.

    “The first song, ‘Down Home Boogie,’ is one of those. I’m playing slide, which nobody knew that I did. Another one is ‘Roots of all Evil.’ A lot of people like that one. I like that one, too. I love the British kind of drum kind of groove to it. I love the tone of the guitars, the tightness, and then I’m a big fan of Danny Lewis from Gov’t Mule. He plays keys on ‘Keep It All Together.’ I love that song.

    “Fans are, like, ‘I like tracks five and six’ and then another one ‘I like seven and eight’. I’m happy because no one is saying they don’t like anything, so all the songs are playable, airplay wise.”

    One thing that stood out with me on the album was how, “Please Come Home”, has a bit of the Doors meets Ringo Starr meets Crosby, Stills and Nash. Pure musical brilliance. I asked Nelson to tell me the story behind that song.

    “The mixing engineer goes, ‘Oh My God, this one’s a hit!’

    “I wrote that with a singer at, like, four in the morning and we actually went to the rest of the band, we’re putting it together. We woke up and we’re like, ‘Hey, we wrote something last night and we apologize.’ They go, ‘What do you mean?’ We said, ‘Because it’s so different and we don’t know where it came from but we think we’re going to put it on the record.’

    “When I brought it to the mixing engineer, he’s like, ‘This song, there’s something about it,’ to the point where it just got sent to the American Armed Forces Network, the radio for the military, ‘Please Come Home’.

    “It’s got a 60s kind of thing and then all of a sudden an Allman Brothers kind of thing. It brings back memories of, like you said, those bands that you mentioned, absolutely. It came out of nowhere, that one. A lot of people are saying that one. You know a band will write all these heavy rock songs and, then, all of a sudden, that’s the one. They’re like, ‘Really? So that’s the one we have to play all the time?’ But we love it. We were so worried. This is a really different direction. Morton sang the hell out of it.

    “Again, once I finished the album, I listened to it now as a fan, you have to separate yourself and go back and look from the outside of the chess game. This is the most I’ve been excited about my new record. There is something about this. This is actually something that I listened to. I put stuff out, then you go to the next album, the next album, but I keep on coming back to this. A lot of people do and they don’t stop listening to it. So, I’m really appreciative that it’s going over that well. I’m glad you mentioned that song because a lot of people are and that’s going to be the next lyric video that they put out for that one. They’re going to push that one.

    Regarding touring in support of the CD, Paul said:

    "Right now, I’m finishing playing on and producing a Paul Butterfield tribute album. Jimmy Vivino is on it. The keyboard player for Paul Butterfield band is on it. We’re working on getting Elvin Bishop, James Montgomery. We have Grace Kelly, the saxophone player from the Steve Colbert show. Then, we head out to do a two month run of the Johnny Winter All-Star stuff to coincide with the movie at the same time this comes out. In May, I start up with my band and my project and that’s what hits because Japan is going to release it so we’ll probably go over there."

    As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Paul how he hoped to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

    paulnelsonband cover1650"I just want to write good music. I want people to enjoy it. That’s pretty strange because Johnny was asked that question a lot. He wanted on his headstone ‘Bluesman. That’s all he ever wanted to be. Myself, all I want to do is write music that I enjoy and that I know the people enjoy. It’s very important for me, because if they enjoy it, what I’ve been doing has been worth it. And, so far so good. You hear from the fans and they encourage you. They really help. The fans are really important because it’s your gauge that keeps you going saying, “you know what, keep on going, keep on doing it.” So I’ll keep on churning stuff out until that time, like you said."

    You can follow the latest happenings in Paul Nelson’s career by visiting PaulNelsonGuitar.com.

  • Rebel Road

    rebelroadcoverRebel Road
    Edgar Winter
    Airline Records
    Reviewed: June, 2009

    Rebel Road is Edgar Winter’s 20th recording. Of course, this doesn’t include his countless collaborative works as well as the myriad soundtracks and commercials that have used his iconic work.

    Winter’s landmark hits, Frankenstein and “Free Ride” still stand up well as pillars of rock classics. That said, I sincerely believe that Edgar’s work on “Rebel Road” have the same quality material that will stand the test of time. Not only that, I also believe that we will see Mr. Winter add another genre to his appeal by drawing Country fans to his work. Either that or Country artist will record his work, exposing him to that lucrative base.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s look at the title cut from the CD.

    “Rebel Road” has all the right ingredients for a rock classic. It rocks the senses! It also doesn’t hurt that guitar virtuoso, Slash, handles the axe work on the tune. This song cries out to be used in a Harley Davidson commercial. Are you listening to me, Keith Wandell? Or how about you, Mark-Hans Richer? This advice is free. The rest of my brilliant ad ideas will cost you. You know how to reach me.

    Back to the disc.

    Rebel Road makes you want to get on a Harley and hit the roads at very high rates of speed. I say that and I don’t even own a motorcycle. That’s the affect this has on its listeners. Did I already say that it rocks?

    The other brilliant tune that was originally the working title cut for the album is “Rockin’ the Blues”, featuring Edgar’s brother, Johnny. When two siblings who have rock, blues, and jazz burned into their DNA like the Winter boys do, you know that when they get together to jam, sheer brilliancy will result. Between Edgar’s signature keyboard work and Johnny’s straight forward rock/blues genius, I have run the risk of causing my iPod to get permanently stuck on this tune. Yes, it’s that great.

    Winter crosses the genre barrier with two incredible Country flavored tunes, “The Power of Positive Drinkin’” and “On the Horns of a Dilemma”. Both cuts feature Country great, Clint Black. Clint plays the harmonica on “Drinkin’” as well as on “Dilemma” with a bit of vocals to boot. Why these two great tunes haven’t commanded the attention of the suits on Music Row in Nashville, I’ll never know. I would say more but I’ve already given too much great, free advice in this peace. You guys know where to reach me. Have your people call my people and we’ll do lunch.

    At the risk of getting real mushy on everybody, I have to say that “The Closer I Get” is one of the best love songs that I’ve heard in a long time. Written for his wife of over 30 years, Monique, this song should serenade every wife on anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. It’s heart-felt, positive and romantic, all in one tune.

    Speaking of positive, this disc oozes an upbeat, positive vibe, even on the blues tunes. It’s refreshing to hear an album that has a positive message over-arching the entire work without making it a concept album.

    I’ve hit on all of my personal favorites but the whole CD is great.

    “Rebel Road” proves, yet again, that Edgar Winter is not only a versatile, musical genius but still relevant on the music scene after over forty years in the business.

    Buy the disc. In fact, buy two and give one to a friend. Trust me. They’ll love it.

  • Rick Derringer

    Posted May, 2009

    In the early Seventies, many a teenage boy fantasized about being able to play guitar just like their favorite guitar hero.  When they’re favorite guitar song would come on the radio or while listening to it in their room, they would imagine that was THEM playing that song.

    One such song during those innocent times was a song that helped define the music of the Seventies.  That song is "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo".  The guitar virtuoso wailing on the guitar on that song was a 26 year old man by the name of Rick Derringer.

    By the time that song was rocking the airwaves, Derringer was already an 8 year veteran of the rock scene.  He recorded his first huge hit, Hang On Sloopy, at the tender age of 17, with his band, The McCoys.  He also performed the guitar solo on Alice Cooper’s 1971 album, Killer.  Soon after “Hoochie Koo”, Derringer had a follow-up hit with Teenage Love Affair.  With those hits under his belt, Rick worked with Johnny Winter and his brother, Edgar, as well as the jazz rock band, Steely Dan.

    In the Eighties and Nineties, Derringer has been involved in a plethora of projects and bands, including working with Weird Al Yankovic, Barbara Streisand, Kiss, and Cyndi Lauper, as well as work for the World Wrestling Federation.  This was all in addition to his continual touring and working on his own projects.

    In recent years, he’s converted to Christianity but still tours and performs his past hits as well as his more recent work.  In 2006, he was featured in a Fidelity Investments television commercial.  In 2007, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” was featured in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero 2, which will inspire another legion of teenage boys to fantasize about playing just like Rick.

    I had the privilege of sitting down with Rick Derringer during his appearances at the 2009 Dallas International Guitar show.  We covered a wide range of topics that included his new CD, Knighted By The Blues, and his line of guitars. We also discussed his vintage guitar business and the market in general, as well as his faith and several other topics.

    A scramble-brained rock star he is not.  Derringer is an affable man who can converse on almost any topic and smoothly segue from one topic to another.  His business finesse and command of current events and how he views it all through the lens of his faith is evident from the git-go.

    I started off by asking Rick Derringer how the guitar show was going for him.  “Very good!  I mean, I come here, more than anything, to just do my concert, be a part of this great roster of guitar players and Jimmy Wallace, who runs the show, is also a good, strong Christian and I like to help him out.  One of my favorite parts of the show is Sunday morning, before the show starts, we have church over there.  So, I come here for a lot of other kind of reasons that aren’t necessarily connected to selling guitars.

    “On the other hand, I do work with Warrior Guitars.  We’ve created a Rick Derringer Signature Model guitar.  And, uh, I always spend a quite a bit of time at their booth showing people that guitar.”

    When asked how sales of his Signature Model guitar were, he enthusiastically responds, “They do pretty well!  It’s a custom guitar company.  They make them by hand.  You don’t see them in many music stores so it’s kind of a smaller number of sales than like a Paul Reed Smith or something like that.

    Paul Reed Smith, I think, makes 70 a day at this point.  And we make about, I think, 30 in a month, which is still pretty good volume but – and there are all other (Warrior) guitars as well as the Rick Derringer model.  But people that play it enjoy it and because of that, most of them that are really ready to buy a guitar – after they play it, will buy that one! “

    We then segued into a discussion about his vintage guitar business.  He describes it this way:  “Yeah, well, always in my life, I’ve been a lover of toys.  A new guitar, to me, is a toy.  And, so, I enjoy acquiring the NEW guitars.  So, what I usually do is, I take my old ones and I play them for awhile.  And they end up sitting somewhere in a vault or somewhere.  Eventually, I sell those old ones so that I can get more NEW ones!  And that has turned into being kind of a business over the years. I always have guitars in my collection and whenever I put a few up for sale, they seem to go pretty fast.  We always provide a certificate with them saying that they’re from my collection and that adds a little bit to the value, as well.”

    However, Derringer acknowledges that the current economy is impacting his business.  “I think that it’s affecting everything!  Not just the vintage guitar business.  It definitely affects everything.  I mean, we’ve all heard that people thought that they had money.  They thought they had invested wisely in real estate and they looked at that equity as their nest egg.  And they looked at themselves as affluent!  As soon as that disappeared, as that nest egg became, apparently, gone, that affluence that they felt was gone, too.

    “So, all of a sudden, when people felt that they had money that they could spend for whatever it was, they don’t feel like that anymore.  So, I think it’s definitely affected the vintage guitar business from one point of view.

    “Now, here’s the other side of the coin:  People are nervous about putting their money in real estate.  They’re nervous about putting it in stocks.  And there are some things that have intrinsic value that will not go away.  One of those things is rare instruments and from that point of view people that see that are still there and they’re actually looking to buy up instruments right now when they’re cheaper – a little cheaper.”

    With the help of a weak dollar, Rick is seeing continued purchases not only domestically but from overseas, especially Japan.  “It’s a world-wide business. Certainly the Japanese like to come over and take the guitars back over there.  But it’s a worldwide business.”

    We turn the discussion to Derringer’s touring.  “Touring this year is less.  This year, I decided to just really tell my agent that I was retiring from concerts.  He chose that as a opportunity to say, ‘Well, if I got you ‘this much’ money, would that mean that we could still get you out there?’  And, I said, ‘Yeah’.  But it was quite a bit more than I have previously charged.  So, I didn’t expect to get any gigs, frankly.  I just said, ‘Okay, I will put in the hands of the Lord and He will provide.’

    "And what has happened is He has!  Just by not having as much of my time tied up travelling, I’ve been able to work on a lot of other kinds of projects.  Albums, CD’s and things like that.  And, also, then just devoting time to properly focusing on our business.  We also manage other artists and produce other records and things like that, too.”

    Derringer has a new CD out entitled, Knighted By The Blues.  I asked him to tell me about it.

    “Yeah! ‘Knighted By The Blues’, it’s called.  It’s on Blues Bureau International Records.  I’ve done – this will be the fifth one for them.  And each time – in some ways – they’ve given me a little more freedom.  But Mike Varney, the president of the company, really is a very strong president.  He has his definite ideas.  He’s a guitar player himself.  He wants to make records for guitar players.  And he wants, somehow, to make sure his interests are protected.  He helps you choose songs for the records and things like that.  And this is the first one where he’s actually allowed me to just ahead and do it without his – I did it in the studio where I like to record as opposed to his turf.  I used the musicians that I like as opposed to the ones HE likes.  I chose the material myself as opposed to him having any input.  And from that point of view, it certainly reflects more what I look at as a blues CD.  And that is not necessarily the strict, old-timey, kind of blues that – it’s a different kind of blues CD.

    “It’s a little more current.  The songs are more relevant to subjects that I think are current.  It doesn’t rely as much on just old songs, too.  There are not as many covers there.  And the covers that I have done, I am personally fond of as opposed to somebody saying, ‘Well I think everybody else is going to like this song.’

    “I’ve done Jimi Hendrix’s, “If Six Was Nine”, which is a song that I always enjoyed.  We changed the lyrics just enough to make them reflective of my Christianity.  And it’s not one that a lot of people have covered.  So, it’s one that people will find refreshing.

    “I did a very rare Ray Charles song that I don’t know – I think only one other person has ever even recorded it as far as I know.  Diana, uh, not Krall. Ah, it doesn’t matter.  At any rate, only one other cover that I know of, of the song.  It’s called, “Funny, But I Still Love You” and I LOVE that song.  We closed the album with that one.

    “So, most of it, though, is brand new original stuff.  And it expands the gamut from the slow, what we call “gut bucket blues” all the way to – one which seems to be finding acceptance with rock radio.  I can’t believe it!  I never would’ve expected it!”

    Later in the conversation, Derringer glows as he describes his wife’s contributions to the CD.  “She’s written about – we wrote seven songs – original songs.  And I think one or two of them I wrote.  One of them, she wrote. And the rest we wrote together.  She’s right there all the time!

    “One of the songs – the one that rock radio likes – she didn’t even present that lyric to me.  She said, ‘Here’s some stuff that might be good for the blues album.’ But that’s not one of them.  I actually was able to go into her computer and pull up her song file and go through things.  And I found that one that she hadn’t even taken that much of an interest in, frankly.  But I said that this could be really cool!  So I took that one myself without even asking her and took it to the studio and turned it into a song, which she was pleasantly surprised!”

    Later, when asked about the rest of his family, Derringer’s eyes light up again, telling me that he has a 16 year old and a 17 year old.  I comment that “they’ve obviously got to think that it’s pretty cool that their dad is a rock ‘n roller and can show them a thing or two.”

    He shoots back, “They do! They do!  My daughter really sings well as does my wife.  And my son, he’s turned in to more of a writer.  He’s turned into a lyricist, so he’s writing words for songs.  And that’s cool.  So, we’re just – whatever they want to do, is pretty much up to them.  I try not to be the boss too much.”

    One of the questions I like to ask those that I interview is how, if they were starting today instead of when they did, would they be able to start the same way?  I asked Derringer this question.  His reply surprised me.

    “It wouldn’t be a lot different.  I mean, we were out there in the grass roots, just trying to be a good band.  And that doesn’t change.  You’re not going to get anywhere if the band isn’t good enough.  So, the first thing you concentrate on is on being a really good little band.  And we then went out, using that.  (We) got local gigs – as many as we could and tried to find gigs with radio stations and things like that, that would give us a little more visibility.  And that’s no different.  Everybody has to do the same kind of thing in that respect.  And, obviously, the end result is that somebody will find YOU.  The music business will find YOU.

    “People have it a lot easier in some ways now.  They can supply their music to download sources, iTunes just being one of them.  But they – without a record company – can get their music out there and, theoretically, grow and become more well-known.  So that’s the only thing that’s really changed is the way – the ease – which you can get into the music business.  In some ways, it’s easier now than it even was then.

    “The music business still loves young people – the young artists.  From that point of view, that hasn’t changed, either.  It’s easier for a young person to get a contract or record deal – or even a place on American Idol than it is for an older person.  That hasn’t changed.  So, uh, in some ways, I’m giving a message of hope and blessing because it’s just – all they have to do is be good.  Practice enough to be good.  The rest will come pretty easy.”

    “So, is there a guitarist today – new – that really commands your attention?  I don’t want to put you on the spot!”

    After pausing for just a moment, Rick answers, “Nobody in particular.  I was going to say a couple of names but – nobody in particular.  In fact, the lead guitar has kind of been downplayed, and it’s just more about the music and the songs than ever.  That hasn’t changed.

    “But, you know, people are starting to find – I understand that the vinyl records has gone up over 30% last year.  And a lot of that is specifically college kids – people in dorms.  And they found that they don’t just have to have ear buds and only be by themselves.  They can actually put a turntable in their room, with speakers, and play music and other people can come in the room and all of them hang out at the same time!”

    “Interaction, imagine that!”

    “Yeah!  So, from that point of view, it seems to be growing more and more all the time.

    Bringing the discussion back to the theoretical “then and now” discussion, I asked, “If you were 16 today and starting a band, would you be doing the kind of music you’re doing now?  Do you feel that was just what you were cut out to do?”

    “ Yeah, music has to be reflective – every kid will find the kid of music he likes.  But they are finding, like I said – through the LP’s and stuff – they’re finding those guitar players.  They’re finding me and they’re finding Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.  All the music from the era that we’re from is being found, whether it’s by young kids or college kids.

    “Guitar Hero (Xbox 360) used “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” in its very second incarnation, Guitar Hero 2.  So I was only one of the first 20 songs that were out there and that is giving us a world-wide presence again, too.  So, that kind of stuff is making – in fact, they accounted for 1/3 of the world wide music business in the last few years - Guitar Hero alone!  It’s incredible.  Everybody has one now.  The family has one.  Some families have several!  But it’s amazing what that has done for music, too.”

    I add, “Our generation of music, it just spans.  It can stand on its own.  And people reach back to it as a foundation.”

    “Well, it meant something special to us as a generation of – I don’t think that it holds the same place.  Music is viable, certainly, and kids will always go there.  Music is always going to be something that helps people.  Music is a different language – language of our soul, in some ways, (the) language of our heart.  And that’s not going to change.  We are humans.  As long as we have souls and hearts, then music will be viable.  And that hasn’t changed at all.  Like we said, kids will find the music they feel is important to them.  And that’s the stuff they’ll do!”

    Derringer is not the least bit shy in letting it be known that he is a Christian.  Since he brought it up a couple of times, I drilled into how his faith has impacted his relationships within the music business and with his fan base.

    “It hasn’t hurt anything!  It hasn’t hurt at all!  As a matter of fact, the idea is for some of ‘me’ to rub off on them!  And that’s what we’re really most excited about.  THAT’s the idea.  I mean, if all of a sudden I changed as a person and I – my music started sucking – uh, they’d all have a pretty bad image of it.

    “They’d blame it all on it (his faith), huh?”, I added.

    “Yeah, but, in reality, what happens is, you know, you’re still the same person you always were.  Where the Lord loves us THEN, He loves us NOW!  And music doesn’t have to get worse.  The fact of the matter just have to have ear buds and only be by themselves.  They can actually put a turntable in their room, with speakers, and play music and other people can come in the room and all of them hang out at the same time!”

    “Interaction, imagine that!”

    “Yeah!  So, from that point of view, it seems to be growing more and more all the time.

    Bringing the discussion back to the theoretical “then and now” discussion, I asked, “If you were 16 today and starting a band, would you be doing the kind of music you’re doing now?  Do you feel that was just what you were cut out to do?”

    “ Yeah, music has to be reflective – every kid will find the kid of music he likes.  But they are finding, like I said – through the LP’s and stuff – they’re finding those guitar players.  They’re finding me and they’re finding Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.  All the music from the era that we’re from is being found, whether it’s by young kids or college kids.

    “Guitar Hero (Xbox 360) used “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” in its very second incarnation, Guitar Hero 2.  So I was only one of the first 20 songs that were out there and that is giving us a world-wide presence again, too.  So, that kind of stuff is making – in fact, they accounted for 1/3 of the world wide music business in the last few years - Guitar Hero alone!  It’s incredible.  Everybody has one now.  The family has one.  Some families have several!  But it’s amazing what that has done for music, too.”

    I add, “Our generation of music, it just spans.  It can stand on its own.  And people reach back to it as a foundation.”

    “Well, it meant something special to us as a generation of – I don’t think that it holds the same place.  Music is viable, certainly, and kids will always go there.  Music is always going to be something that helps people.  Music is a different language – language of our soul, in some ways, (the) language of our heart.  And that’s not going to change.  We are humans.  As long as we have souls and hearts, then music will be viable.  And that hasn’t changed at all.  Like we said, kids will find the music they feel is important to them.  And that’s the stuff they’ll do!”

    Derringer is not the least bit shy in letting it be known that he is a Christian.  Since he brought it up a couple of times, I drilled into how his faith has impacted his relationships within the music business and with his fan base.

    “It hasn’t hurt anything!  It hasn’t hurt at all!  As a matter of fact, the idea is for some of ‘me’ to rub off on them!  And that’s what we’re really most excited about.  THAT’s the idea.  I mean, if all of a sudden I changed as a person and I – my music started sucking – uh, they’d all have a pretty bad image of it.

    “They’d blame it all on it (his faith), huh?”, I added.

    “Yeah, but, in reality, what happens is, you know, you’re still the same person you always were.  Where the Lord loves us THEN, He loves us NOW!  And music doesn’t have to get worse.  The fact of the matter is, your conscience being freed up just lightens your load so that your creativity and music can soar!  That’s what I’ve found and people are excited about hearing that.

    “So it hasn’t turned anybody off and, as a matter of fact, I have people telling me all the time that they appreciate seeing my testimony on the website.  And we’re actually spreading that more all the time, rather than less.  And that helps people see that they can, you know - they’re not alone!  The Lord can help ME.  He can help them!  And that’s the message that we have!”

    Rick becomes even more animated at this point.  “Amazing!  Yeah!  Yeah!  You just put your – live by faith!  LIVE-BY-FAITH!  Because HE will provide!  “I will take care!” Like this year, for instance, like I said, I raised my price pretty drastically.  And, all of a sudden, I was turning down some shows because they were for less than what I was asking for.

     “And my road manager called me up and he was a little concerned, you know?  “You’re turning down this show!  This is a good concert!”  And I explained to him, ‘You know? Look. I put it in the hands of the Lord.  I told the Lord that I have FAITH that He will PROVIDE what we see as necessary.  If all of a sudden we take the first gig that comes along that is way less than what I asked the Lord for, what kind of faith is that?’  What kind of faith does that show?!  You HAVE to have the faith!  I mean, you just can’t pretend.  It has to be real!  As long as you put your faith in the Lord, He will provide!”

    Curious how the church world was receiving him, I asked, “Are you getting any interest from church circles for your work?”

    “Uh, well, we haven’t really tried to go out there and, uh, shoot for that.   But slowly –“

    “You’re a different kind of gig than that.”

    “Yeah, and I do have more churches and stuff, though, that are coming around, asking me to perform, and things like that.  But here’s what happened.  When I first started doing more Christian based music and changing some of my songs to reflect that standing, I was a little concerned about the kind of shows – we’d play for biker events.  And I don’t play anymore - we were playing bars and those kinds of venues.  And I was a little concerned so I asked my pastor at that time for their advice.  And what they told me was that, really look at it as the opportunity that the Lord has given me!  If I go into a church, playing for a bunch of believers . . .”

    “You’re preaching to the choir!”

    “Yeah, it certainly reinforces THEIR belief.  Once again, their saved!  You’re preaching to the choir!

    “On the other hand, the places that I just mentioned where I play, they don’t necessarily ever invite a Christian artist to play those places.  So, I’m able to go in there – totally with their approval – and they’re even paying me – and play my concert and throw in a few songs that have now been changed to reflect that Christian standpoint.  I’m given that opportunity that nobody else has!  So I’m able to go in there and just do what Jesus said to do!  Be that light in the real world and, uh, deliver that message.  And even if some people don’t hear the lyrics, if they just – if I’m reflecting Jesus to that audience and they should be able to feel that and see it . . . and it works!  They said, ‘You should be doing THAT! That’s a responsibility that you’ve been given and you should honor it!’ And that’s what we do!”

    Later, when mentioning other rockers who have also proclaimed their faith, Derringer interjects, “We call ourselves, ‘Double agents for the Lord!  We’re working behind the enemy lines!”

    We wrapped up our chat with what he’s got coming up, which includes some dates with Edgar and Johnny Winter in September.  Rick Derringer’s appearances are listed on his website, www.rickderringer.com.

    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. .

  • Step Back

    Step Back
    Johnny Winter
    Label: Megaforce Records
    Release Date: September 02, 2014
    Review Date: September 21, 2014

    On July 16th of this year, blues great, Johnny Winter, passed away in his hotel room while on tour in Switzerland. Not long before his untimely death, he had completed what will undoubtedly be considered as his best work ever. The album is entitled, “Step Back,” and contains thirteen brilliantly recorded and amazingly performed blues tunes.

    Almost as a pre-eulogy, Winter and his guitar wingman/producer/manager and close friend, Paul Nelson, assembled some of the most legendary guitarist still alive to help on the record. People like (in order of their playlist appearance) Blues Brothers Horns, Ben Harper, Eric Clapton, Paul Nelson, Brian Seltzer, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Ricci, fellow Woodstock alum, Leslie West, Joe Perry and Dr. John, may very well cause “Step Back” go down as THE landmark blues album of the year . . . if not the decade.

    Under Nelson’s skillful hand as producer, Winter left a musical treasure chest of new treatments to old blues tunes that will cause them to be heard in a whole new light. What I found eerily poignant was that one of the two songs that Johnny didn’t have any assistance on was the Son House tune, “Death Letter,” especially when these lines are sung:

    “You know I went in my room, I bowed down to pray
    The blues came along and drove my spirit away . . .”

    Each and every one of the thirteen songs on “Step Back” is worth paying the whole price of the album for. That all said, here are three randomly chosen Boomerocity favorites from the disc:

    First and foremost would be the cover of the B.B. King classic, “Sweet Sixteen,” performed with young guitar phenom, Joe Bonamassa.  The guitar work is low down and deliciously dirty. I darn near wore out the digits on this song from slapping the repeat button so many times.

    A very close second is the Billy Gibbons assisted, “Where Can You Be”. Gibbons’ voice and guitar work are unmistakable and a wise choice by Winter and Nelson. This, no doubt, would’ve been a huge crowd pleaser for Johnny. We’ll never know.

    Finally, the Lightnin’ Hopkins classic, “Mojo Hand,” is helped along with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. Hearing these two guitar greats jam together will bring a broad smile to any guitar connoisseur’s face.

    Music lovers will want this album in their personal listening library – not only because it’s Johnny Winter’s CD swan song, but because of the pure, unadulterated brilliance of performances contained in it.

    Yeah, it's that good.

    Rest in peace, Johnny Winter.



Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

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