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Verdine White Of Earth, Wind & Fire

Published March 2017 

verdinewhiteAs a teenager in high school during the seventies, one of the most endearing and danceable bands to grace our school dances and car/home stereos was none other than Earth, Wind & Fire. 

Their first huge hit was “Shining Star” took our school – and the whole world – by a dancing storm. Even today, the opening notes of that song immediately take me back to the sun-drenched campus of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix. Bell-bottom jeans, platform shoes, and some of the funkiest shirts ever made draped our youthful bodies. 

Fast-forward to today: The band has repeatedly toured the everything knoxville logo editedworld and has reportedly sold 100 million records. With a couple of their songs hitting the 2016 movies, Dr. Strange and Trolls, EWF is reaching all new audiences and creating another generation of life-long fans.

Sadly, the founder and genius behind EWF, Maurice White, passed away a year ago last month. His musical legacy is still being felt today and the band honors his memory by carrying on its mission of blessing the masses with their iconic hits.

Leading that mission is Maurice’s kid brother, Verdine White, who has been with the band as bass player since its inception. To say that Verdine is not only exceptionally talented but also high energy would be a severe understatement. The man doesn’t stop from the moment the hits the stage until the final bow. He makes the Energizer Bunny appear catatonic.

With Earth, Wind & Fire preparing to hit the road for another tour, I called Verdine at his California home to chat about his late brother, Trolls, and what fans might expect during this tour.

  With the band having been in existence for almost fifty years, I started by asking Verdine if he thought that the band would last that long or that the songs would still stand so well.

Clip Above To Listen To The Actual Raw Interview

“No, not at all. When you first start, you hope to get a couple of hits and things like that. You just hope for the best and then I thought I’d go back to teach and go back to school. But every year obviously got better and better and better. We have to thank my late brother, Maurice, for that. You know he passed away last year in February. He was the one with the vision. We’re just basically following the blueprint that he laid out.”

I mentioned to White that I had seen EWF with Chicago and that it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen.

“We just got done with Chicago in the fall. It was really fantastic and a great thing. They’re a great, great, great band! They were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. We’re really happy for them!”

Speaking of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, EWF was inducted in 2000 so Chicago is in excellent company.

During our chat, I laughingly commented Mr. White’s hyper energy on stage and joked by asking what kind of cereal he eats. 

earthwindandfirecropped“I try to eat as good as I can and it’s the music, man. The music really does it! It’s what keeps it together and that’s always so inspiring.”

Discussing the current tour, Verdine shared what fans can expect at the shows.

“Well, it’s going to be a great show. A lot of great energy. A lot of great songs. We’re on our fifth generation. Our music’s everywhere.

“One of the things we did is we have three songs in two of the biggest movies that came out before Christmas. Dr. Strange with Shining Star and we also did the Trolls soundtrack with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. We have three songs in the number one and number two movie in the whole world – back-to-back; same weekend.

“What happened the other day, my wife and I were at dinner and a woman brought her three-year-old daughter to take pictures because she had just seen the Trolls movie and she was doing backflips in the theater. A three-and-a-half-year-old! And the parents brought them! They had just left the Trolls movie and said, ‘Can we take a picture? Can we take a picture?’ That’s amazing, isn’t it? That’s really a blessing and shows you the power of songs.”

As Mr. White mentioned, his brother, Maurice, passed away a year ago. I asked what thoughts he would share about his late brother.

“That he was a great person, first of all. He was a wonderful brother. He was just a great person. All those things first. And, of course, he was just a marvelously talented person! He was the best big brother that anybody could ever have. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

With almost fifty years in the music business, I asked Verdine what has been the biggest and smallest changes in the music business that he’s witnessed.

  “Well, of course, in my career I’ve seen a lot of changes in the music business. It’s evolved, you know what I mean, to the point that now everybody can get your music in one second. All your work can be over the whole world. I’m encouraged by the new developments because now we’re having some really wonderful, new artists and they all sound different. It has the ability to get to the audience. I’m really encouraged. Those are the biggest changes I’ve seen.

“The change that I haven’t seen is that you still have to put the work in. That doesn’t change! You still got to put the work in! You still got to put the effort in. That part hasn’t changed!”

I hypothetically asked White what he would do to fix the music business if he were appointed “Music Czar” by the president.

“I think all the businesses – we’ve all had to adjust to the new world – the digital world. That’s not just only our businesses. Magazines, newspapers, a lot of our print media has suffered, you know what I mean? I’m sure you know because you’re in that world, as well.

“But what I would do to fix it is put think tanks together to adjust at every change. The changes are happening faster and faster and faster. That’s what I would do. Put a think tank together for how to reach the audiences, listening to the audiences. Remember, we used to have suggestion boxes when we were at work, right? I think you could do those kinds of things and find out what the audience wants; how to price it for them, and serve the public. I think that’s all our job. That’s what I would do. 

As for what’s on the band’s radar for the next year or two, White said, “We haven’t really thought about it yet. It’s a long way. The most things that we’re doing right now is getting for the tour and then we’ll take it from there.” 

And what would he like to do musically that he hasn’t done yet? 

“God, there’s so many things! I would still love to play with the London Symphony Orchestra! That’s what I would love to do!”

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked the renowned bass player what I often ask artists at the end of an interview: When you step off the tour bus of life at the Great Gig in The Sky (to paraphrase Pink Floyd), how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? 

“When you’re at this point in our career, that’s the question you get. If you were a young act you wouldn’t give them that question. I think it’s still in process, you know? It’s still in process, you know what I’m sayin’? That’s my answer. It’s an obvious question to people like us, when you’ve been around for quite some time. I think it still begs to be written. People ask me about Maurice’s legacy I say that it’s still being written.”

Then, almost as if he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to give meaningful advice to the current generation of artist, Verdine adds:

verdinewhiteinthestudioVerdine White Mentoring Students“One of the things that I tell young artists who come up to me is that I tell them to take care of themselves. Take care of themselves! Start now! That’s the one thing that I do say. I always say, ‘Stay strong! Stay healthy!’ That’s what I tell the younger artists when they come up to me.”

After our chat, I talked to Verdine about his charity, The Verdine White Performing Arts Center. It’s an organization he put together to help kids who have musical talent by way of providing instruments, lessons, or scholarships. Boomerocity is proud to help this worthy cause by making our readers aware of it. Please consider making a contribution.

Also, be sure to enjoy the music of the movie, Trolls, as well as catch Earth, Wind and Fire at one of their tour stops near you.

You can keep up with Verdine and the rest of Earth, Wind and Fire at WWW.EarthWindandFire.com.

 

Glenn Hughes Resonates

Posted February 2017 

glennbackcoversingle copyI don’t know what songs kids play air guitar in their rooms these days but “back when I was their age” (did I just say that?!), one of the bands on my air guitar short list was most definitely Deep Purple. Their Made In Japan album was, by far, THE album (if a kid couldn’t play anything else on guitar, they could play the intro to Smoke On The Water) and when their studio album, Burn, came out, Purple fans emptied store shelves of it. 

The band has had four different line-ups (referred to as Mark I, II, III, or IV) and have reportedly collectively sold over 100 million LPs globally. The bassist in Marks III and IV was Glenn Hughes who, along with other members of Deep Purple, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. 

While on the subject of the RRHOF, I contacted its CEO, Greg Harris, for some comments about the legendary bassist.

“An overall thought is what an incredible rock and roll life and what an incredibly warm and open person. It says a lot to be such a great stage presence in rock and roll, through and through and having been so well traveled. He relates to people. I’m very impressed with his friendship and generosity to everybody. If you think about his lineage in the bands he was in before Deep Purple itself and then afterwards, it’s just amazing. So, whether or not you knew the name of the guy playing bass in some of these bands – that unmistakable sound is Glenn Hughes.”

When I asked Greg if Glenn had been involved with the Hall with regards to contributing any memorabilia, he said, “He has. He’s been, first and foremost, involved with the induction. Then, subsequent to that, he’s actually served as our Hall of Fame ambassador at a few events. He’s such a great spokesperson for the museum. He was generous in providing items for the exhibit. With such a long career and so much movement, he doesn’t have a lot of things left from those early days. But he shared with us a real period piece: a pair of platform shoes that he wore during the Deep Purple era.”

Mr. Harris closed his comments about Glenn by adding, “Not only is Glenn an inductee into the Hall of Fame but he has also become a member of the Hall of Fame family. He truly has been a great ambassador and he and his wife, Gabby, are just terrific individuals.”

glennbw copyGlenn not only played in the Deep Purple, but he was also part of Trapeze, California Breed, Black Sabbath, and super group, Black Country Communion (with Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian), along with scores of others over the span of his lengthy career.

In addition to working with so many great bands and artists, Glenn has also recorded solo projects of his own. It was for his latest CD, Resonate, that I called him up at his home to chat about it.

We started out by chatting about his induction into the RRHOF and his thoughts about it and the Hall.

“I’ve been watching the Hall of Fame since it first started out thirty-three years ago. It’s been something I’ve been doing living in America every year. It’s a grand and glorious event, you know. And to finally be inducted with my friends in Deep Purple was a momentous occasion for rock fans, in general, not just people on stage but in general. When you think of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it really is about rock and roll – or it’s supposed to be for the bands you would think of from the seventies: The Who and the Stones and the Beatles and Zeppelin and Sabbath and, now, Purple. Then, of course, a grand splattering of newer artists. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pearl Jam gets in this year (he was correct in that prediction). The door opens for other artists from Seattle and New York and London.  It’s a case of longevity and records sold, fan base and whatever grand scale of things happen.”

Turning to the subject of his new CD, I asked Hughes why the title, “Resonate”. glennfinalpurple copy

“Because I wanted to call the album something that meant something to me. It’s not very often that I will call an album after a song. I’ve only done it a couple of times. The album title, for me, is about what it means; about how I’m feeling and the recording and the songs. That word, ‘resonate,’ kept popping up in my head and it spoke to me. So, I was happy to call the album, ‘Resonate’.

With recording methodology and technology changing radically over the years, I asked Glenn how this album was different for him to make than all of the other albums he has worked on.

“It’s the first album where I went into my home studio and wrote each song in its entirety – both musically, arrangement wise, and lyrically – and then I’d sing it so that the demo would be completely done before I would turn to the next song. And, then, in the studio recording the album a couple of months later, what I did with my band is I played them one song at a time and we would do the song in its entirety and finish the song and then move to the next song. I had never had it in my head to do that before but it worked really well – to actually complete a song. Therefore, you can move freely to the next one.”

When asked what led him to work with the group of guys that he did on Resonate, Glenn said:

“Because they’re guys in my live band and they’re great musicians that I love working with. It’s so important for me to play live with the people I have on the record. Chad (Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) has actually been on five of my solo albums and he’s my best friend. It’s always a pleasure to have him around not only – in my opinion – that he’s the greatest rock drummer but he’s funny, kind, considerate young man. Really amazing.

To ask an artist what song of theirs is their favorite is much like asking them who their favorite child is. However, I did ask Hughes which song would he point to as a calling card for “Resonate” for people to listen to in order to entice them to purchase it.

“Oh my god. It’s so difficult because they’re all little movies in their own right. But I think when you hear ‘Heavy,’ I mean, it’s got it all in there, you know? But then, again, people are saying that about ‘Long Time Gone.’ They’re saying that about ‘God of Money.’ They’re saying that about “Let It Shine’ and they’re saying it about ‘Flow.’ There are so many song titles that comes to mind that I’m so engrossed in what the songs are. They’re so meaningful to me and, hopefully, they will translate to everyone.”

Is there one that is any more personal than the rest?

“They’re all autobiographical. Every single one is something that happened to me. I say ‘autobiographical.’ These things are about the human condition. Every song I write is about what happened between birth and death and what happens in between and the seven deadly sins that involve faith, fear, hate. It’s all hear. There’s some angst on this album. There’s a moment there where I’m really upset. I left it on tape. I don’t want to erase something that people need to hear. The way that I feel is important so I don’t want to cover up my feelings. I want people to know or feel the real emotional side of who I am.”

As for tour plans this year and other career items on his radar, Glenn shared:

“We’re touring next Spring. We will play throughout America in August, coming back in the Spring and we’ll come back again next September. Oh, another album from me that will be recorded late next year. Black Country Communion are making another album in January. Joe Bonamassa is at my home tomorrow. We’re almost done writing that album. Then we go into the studio in January to record that. It’s going to be a very busy year next year for me. I’m very, very busy touring. I like to tour as much as possible. A lot of my friends that are my age have stopped touring or they’re slowing down. But, for some reason, my career seems to be picking up some speed so I’m just going to go with it.”

Wrapping out up our chat, I asked the legendary bassist how he hoped to be remembered what he hoped his legacy would be.

“I am a messenger. That’s what my message is. I continue to be a messenger throughout the last few decades about giving love to people and giving music back and making people feel free. I like to think that my music can heal people and help give people comfort. So, at the end of it, then, I was a messenger – I AM a messenger – and I’m a healer. That’s the most important thing to me, is to carry that message.” 

You can keep up with Glenn at www.glennhughes.com.

Rich Robinson In Flux

Posted December, 2016

richrobinson credit alysse gafkjen001 cropPhoto by Alysse GafkjenIn the fall of 1990, I was driving from Raleigh, North Carolina, through the mountain of East Tennessee/Western North Carolina, listening to a static riddled FM rock station. The night was dark and Interstate 40 was steep and I was pushing to get to my grandmother’s place after a week of training.

After enjoying song after enjoyable, familiar song, something came blasting out of the car’s speakers that I hadn’t heard before. I turned the volume up and tuned my ears in to this fabulous tune I was hearing. The band was a new group called The Black Crowes and the song was a brilliant cover of the Otis Redding hit, Hard to Handle. Like millions of people that year, I became an immediate fan of the Georgia based band.

Formed by brothers Rich (on guitars) and Chris Robinson (vocals), the Black Crowes enjoyed twenty-five years of success (including over 30 million albums sold) before the brothers decided to go their separate ways. One of the results of that parting is Rich’s new CD, Flux. Raw and gritty, the album is what rock is all about.

It was about that album that I had the opportunity to chat by phone with Rich while he enjoyed a day or two at home during a tour break. Responding to my question about fan reaction to the album and supporting tour, he said, “So far, it’s been a really good response. Everyone’s been really cool. Crowds have been really enthusiastic about the new songs so it’s been great! I think that people feel that it all works together. I try to look at everything thing as a large piece, you know what I mean? How does this fit into the overall spectrum of what I’ve done? To me, I think it fits right in line with everything and, again, I’m really happy with it.”

Regarding how the work on Flux was different than all of the other albums he worked on, Rich responded, “I’ve always written the way I write. I go in and the music kind of dictates what it’s going to be – the song that comes dictates what it’s going to sound like; what’s going to happen, and that’s a cool thing to me. The way I create always comes down to what’s this going to bring out, ultimately. Just kind of get in there and see how it goes and not try to over think it.”

Technology has had a tremendous impact with some artists as to how they work and record in the studio. I asked Robinson if it had affected his approach to recording.

richrobinson credit alysse gafkjen002Photo by Alysse Gafkjen“No, it doesn’t because I just do it how I’ve always done it. There’s really no difference as far as how I write. This record, in particular, I did go in with less solid songs. I had a ton of parts that I just amassed but I didn’t want to finish them. There’s a sense of urgency in the studio that you have to deal with when you have a finite amount of time. So, you have to make decisions. Sometimes, if you have all the time in the world, you don’t have to make a decision. But if you’re in there and you’re like, ‘Look, I’ve got to do this in one day. What’s this going to look like? How is this going to be?’ Then I think that can really push along the creative process. It forces the focus.”

I know that picking a favorite song you’ve written is liking being asked to pick your favorite child so I’ll ask a slightly different question: Which song from Flux would you point to as a calling card to people to entice them to purchase the CD?

“I have no idea! Songs are songs and the interesting thing about all of my records, really, is that it’s all very different. Certain people will say, ‘Ah! That’s my favorite song!’ – people that I talk to. It’s what the person chooses, you know what I mean?”

You’re touring now, correct?
“It’s going good. We’re getting ready to wind it up – the first leg. That’s kinda coming down to the end but we have another leg starting. So it’ll be cool.”

Are you touring with the same group of guys you recorded the album with?
“Yeah! In the studio it was me and my drummer, Joe Magistro, and keyboard player, Matt Slocum. On tour, I also have Svien Pipien from the Black Crowes playing bass. And, then, I have a friend of mine from Argentina named Miko Bere - a really good guitar player and a really good guy. So, yeah! That’s who we’re touring with!”

How are the crowds responding to you this tour?
“Really enthusiastically!”

For the gear heads out there, a couple of guitar questions:

Do you mind if I ask how many guitars that you own?
“I think about fifty or sixty. I don’t know. I haven’t really counted in a while. I think there’s about fifty or sixty.”

What do you consider to be the holy grail of guitars and do you own it?
“Um, I don’t think there really is a holy grail of guitars. I think that guitars have their own personality and I think that people can connect with different guitars, you know what I mean? So, richrobinson credit alysse gafkjen001I don’t necessarily think that one is better than the other. Again, it’s like asking what my favorite song (that I wrote) – I really like all of them and I use them for different things. One guitar might be great for a cleaner sound. One guitar might be great for a dirtier sound.”

Music czar question
“I would fire everyone who heads every major label and I would fire all of the financial people and I would get rid of the whole fucking lot of them and start over and try to put artists and people who care in charge and who don’t only give a shit about money. That’s what’s really ruined the industry. If you think about it, they’ve ruined every damn thing in the world.”

Final question: When you step off the tour bus for the final time and go to that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?
“Oh, I don’t know. I never think about that. I don’t necessarily do this for a posthumous reason, ha ha! I just do it for while I’m living and whatever happens after that I don’t really care. I guess you want people to like your music and if it lives on, great. It’s not something that I think about, ever.”

Undoubtedly, all forms of his work will live on.

You can keep up with Rich, his music, and his art work, at his website, www.richrobinson.net.

Derek Trucks

Posted January, 2017

tedeschi trucks band 001 photo creditduo general 3For the uninformed, the Tedeschi Trucks band is one of the best blues rock jam bands touring the planet today. You can take that to the bank so just go right ahead and buy their three studio albums (Revelator, Made Up Mind, and Let Me Get By) and their live album (Everybody’s Talkin’).

For a little background, the band is led by husband and wife team, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, and are backed by ten (originally eight but things have a way of growing in a band like this) of the best musicians jamming today. Derek was considered a child prodigy on the guitar not long after buying his first six string when he was seven years old.

In the years that followed, Trucks made a name for himself with his own band as well as playing with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy (when Derek was thirteen), Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, and many others. His reputation also led to repeated guest spots in the Allman Brothers band, who his uncle, Butch, co-founded. The guest spot ultimately led to a permanent position from 1999 until the band split in late 2014.

Susan Tedeschi is an amazing blues guitarist in her own right and is the primary lead vocalist in the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  If you haven’t heard her sing and play ‘Midnight In Harlem’, you’re missing out on a real treat.

But I digress.

Susan is a Berkley grad and her talents led her to opening gigs with icons like The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mellencamp, and many others. As the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Derek, Susan, and the band have delighted audiences all over the world and even at the White House.  Along the way, they’re building an ever-growing fan base that is sure to serve them well in the years to come.

I recently chatted by phone with Derek just before the band performed their last of three shows at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. I wanted to talk about their latest CD, Let Me Get By, and their current tour. The status of the latter is what I first asked him about.

“It’s been good, you know? Tonight’s our last show of the year. We’ve been hittin’ it hard this year. It’s been a great year but it’s been pretty intense. We’re pretty excited – maybe go out with a bang tonight.”

When I followed up with asking how this tour was different from past tours, Derek said, “The one we’re on right now is three shows in Boston at the Orpheum. I feel like the last six months – really, in some ways, since we put out this last record – the band’s just in a better place musically, personally. I think we’re in a really healthy spot at the moment. Every tour seems to get a little better. There’s been one or two runs this year that we played our best stuff to date. I feel like we’re on the right track.”

tedeschi trucks band 002Shows from bands like the Tedeschi Trucks Band tend to be very fluid, spontaneous, and (obviously) improvisational. Still, I asked Trucks what fans could expect from this run of shows, including the upcoming visit to Knoxville on January 26.

“You know, we really try to keep the material kind of flowing through the band. We really don’t know until we get out. Before we head out on the next run we’ll have a little rehearsal. Try to add some new tunes; try to write some tunes on this little break that’s coming up. But, you know, it’s a pretty healthy mix of all of the records we’ve made and just a pile of tunes that we’ve played, whether they’re covers or whatever from over the years; stuff from our old bands. It’s a pretty constantly changing set list.  that we have.

“We just did the Beacon Theatre not too long ago and I think over the course of six shows we did close to seventy tunes – something like that. We try to keep ‘em movin’.”

Any chance of those shows being recorded for future release?

“We record all of our shows – at least the last six months or so. Yeah, we’re working on a DVD from our Oakland shows at the Fox Theater. We’re gettin’ close to that. (We’ll) Do a live record, too. I’m thinking about doing a Beacon Theatre live record somewhere down the road.”

The band’s new CD, Let Me Get By, is a phenomenal body of work – probably their best yet. I wondered how much of the new album would be performed during this tour.

“We play most of those tunes – at least two or three of those tunes a night but . Like I was saying, it does shift quite a bit from show to show. Those tunes have kind of taken on a life of their own. They’ve been a lot of fun to play.”

Obviously proud of – and excited about – Let Me Get By, Derek continued about the disc.

“You know, I do think that record was a turning point for the band. It was all done in-house. We wrote all the tunes as a group. It was a great moment for the band and I feel like we got better, musically, coming out of making that record. So, it was a pretty big turning point for us. I kinda feel like we’re ready to get back in and hit another one. WI do think that we’ll look back on that record as being kind of when the band became realized.

“There’s a lot of stuff on the record that I still enjoy listening to. I don’t put on our records and listen often, but I do go back – we’re mixing a live record now and I go back and listen to the album just to check in on it to see how the mixes hold up. Something feels really natural, to be honest about it.”

As for which song he would point people to as the calling card for the entire CD, Trucks said:

“Let’s see. There’s a few that I can say that we enjoy playing a lot right now. ‘I Want More’ and ‘Let Me Get By’. I loved recording the tune, ‘Hear Me’. We really haven’t played that one live yet. For some reason, those three seem to stick out.”

Artists are always nervous about what their fans’ reception to a new project is going to be. I asked Trucks what fan reaction has been like for the new material.

“I think that record and, really, this year there’s been a big wave. We can feel it. You look out in the crowd when you play some of those tunes you can tell that people know the music. They know the record. We’ve had that a little bit in the past, but I feel that everything kind of ratcheted up a little bit. I think Iit’s the most well received of anything we’ve done as a band.”

“I think the fact that we have our own studio and this was the first record we did tedeschi trucks band 003 photo credit tedeschi trucks band band general use 1everything on our own. We were between record labels. It’s just all in-house. From top to bottom we just did it the way we wanted to do it. That’s a rare thing. You don’t get that chance very often. We’re somehow avoiding being micro-managed.” 

The sign of a great album or performance is when a band or artist leaves his fans craving for more. That’s how I feel after devouring Let Me Get By so I asked if there were already other albums in the works. 

“Yeah, we have a live record that’s close. We’re probably a few days away from finishing that. That’ll be next and, then we’re heading back into the studio sometime on this next break to start writing and digging in on a new record. But that will probably be a little further down the road.” But there’s definitely a live record that’s pretty much finished.”

As for what’s on the band’s radar for the next year to five years, Derek says:

“Next year, we’ll probably play a few less shows than we did this year, but we’re still going to be hitting it hard. We’ll have a live record and then the DVD coming out. With a band this big, you have to tour. Five years out, who knows? I feel like this band is in a really healthy place. I can see it steadily growing – musically growing and charging down the road. If it’s still inspired and music keeps rollin’, I see no reason to change course.

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Derek Trucks how he hopes to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy is. Like most musicians, it’s about the music.

“You know, I think everything that I’ve done up to this point and with this band, I think that I just want people to appreciate the integrity. WI feel that we’ve never pandered. I hope that it never gets cynical – that we never get out there and are just playing and going through the motions. AI think that as long as you keep it honest and you try to tell your story and dig deep and do your thing, I’m not too concerned with how it’s perceived. But I do hope that, at least, that sentiment will ring true.”

Keep up with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at www.tedeschitrucksband.com and complete your personal library of their work by clicking on any of the widgets, below.

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Billy Gibbons

Posted November, 2016

Photo by Levi PervinPhoto by Levi PervinRock and blues fans get their music from all over the world. One favored and revered band started almost fifty years ago in Houston, Texas. That band is ZZ Top who became known as the “little ol’ band from Texas.” They have been making huge, monster hits ever since their landmark album, “Tres Hombres,” and never looked back.

I’ve never had the privilege of seeing the band perform. The only time I’ve ever seen them in person, in fact, was at Stevie Ray Vaughan’s funeral in 1990. Because the band is performing at Knoxville’s beautiful Tennessee Theatre, the opportunity presented itself to ask the band’s iconic Billy Gibbons a few questions.

To say that I was thrilled would be an obvious understatement.

Our brief exchange took place while Gibbons was in France. Flattered that he took the time to answer my questions, I made sure that they were short and sweet, starting with asking how many tours their current tour made for the band.

“In total? The word “incalculable” springs to mind because the truth is it's a definite uncertainty when one tour ends and the next one begins. The best guess places it somewhere in four digits yet, again, that’s just a guess.”

And how has touring changed for ZZ Top since the first tours?

“We’ve graduated from a rented station-wagon, stuffed full of gear and band members to streamlined touring coaches which makes for a rolling home when we’re not at home. The streamlining is now way better keeping in touch with the outside world. During the outings in ZZ's early years, we were last to know our albums were playing on radio and were starting to hit hard. Now, it's all about onboard Wi-Fi, re-runs of black-and-white Perry Mason, and full-service kitchen preparations on wheels. Way back then, complaints were few as we were getting to groove with the folks getting into what we were puttin’ down. That groove continues to rock on and fortunately the pathways these days are straight ahead.”

When asked what can fans expect from shows on this tour – especially during the Knoxville stop?

“We’re coming to Knoxville fresh from a run of European tour dates so being back home always puts the band in a good frame of mind. We’re the last to know what we’re gonna do until we do it making each night something of a mystery what goes on up on deck, however it’s with a great deal of certainty that it’s gonna be loud and it’s gonna rock.”

Shifting gears, I asked Billy what his take was on the music industry today.

“It’s a fluid field everywhere. One could obsess about the vast changes that we’ve all witnessed, yet it's still the focus, first and foremost, to play it. Did I mention ‘loud’?”

Since Gibbons has been in the rock and roll business for almost fifty years, I asked him what would he do to fix the music business if he were made Music Czar.

zz top by ross halfinPhoto by Ross Halfin

“It starts with good writing behind a good song. Delivering that certain something that satisfies. And, as a band of renegade misfits, we conspire to place importance to press on with the notion that motivates getting to do just that…creating that certain something that takes it a step 

further.”

With an over-abundance of music flooding the market in many different ways, I was curious who is commanding Mr. Gibbons’ attention, musically, these days.

“We’ve remained close to Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age, of course, and are digging some up and coming bands including a punk outfit out of LA called Surprise Vacation and Lecherous Gaze from Oakland. Isaac Rother & The Phantoms are cool as is Leon Bridges, the hip young soul guy from Ft. Worth. We’re partial to Buddy Guy’s young protégé Quinn Sullivan.”

Boomerocity has a lot of readers who are musicians so, for the gear heads out there, I asked Billy what is the “holy grail” of guitars is and did he own it.

“You bet I do. It’s the infamous ’59 Les Paul Standard named Pearly Gates that’s been the cornerstone since ZZ Top’s existence. Nothing plays or sounds like 'er. She’s so singular that the Gibson company borrowed her back and did a proper reissue tribute. Talk about ‘fine . . .'”

zz top billygibbons by levi pervin 16Photo by Levi PervinAs for what’s on the band’s radar in the foreseeable future, Billy responded:

“Actually, ZZ Top's first full length live release set for release at the end of August is up and coming. It’s got all your favorites and, as a bonus, a version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons” with our good buddy, Jeff Beck, joining in. Fifteen tracks, recorded in a variety of outposts around the globe as far reaching as Las Vegas to Paris, Chicago to São Paolo, LA to London, back to Berlin, down to Dallas, over to Houston, Memphis and Mississippi and, probably, some places I’ve left out.”

We all hope that Billy and the band have many, many more years of playing and recording left in them. However, I ask this of many of the people I’ve had the privilege of interviewing: When you step off the tour bus of life and go to that great gig in the sky (to cop a line from Pink Floyd), how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? I ran that question by Gibbons.

“No plan to ‘step off’ for a long while however, it would be nice to think of ZZ Top as the band that rocked it with “tone, taste and tenacity.” Any and all association with the ongoing interpretation of the blues would be a bonus.”