Interviews with Guitar Greats

Interviews with your favorite players, written by Tom Guerra (c) 1998-2014 for publication in Vintage Guitar, Premier Guitar, The ToneQuest Report and Modern Guitars magazines, and cannot be reproduced without permission of the author.  Check back often for new interviews!

Click title for the entire interview

PAUL NELSON - MAIN MAN TO THE BLUES MAN
Paul Nelson is not only Johnny Winter’s second guitarist, but also the blues icon’s musical director, producer, songwriter and (many say) lifesaver. “Paul Nelson is one of my favorite guitarists” says Winter. Fans who have recently seen Johnny Winter will attest to Nelson’s own guitar prowess along with his unique ability to complement Winter. The resulting fireworks provide some of the best shows of Winter’s long career. The release of Johnny’s new album, “Step Back,” finds Nelson recording and performing alongside a big list of guitar greats.

RONNIE EARL - THE TONEQUEST REPORT INTERVIEW
Mambo Sons guitarist and ToneQuest Report Editiorial Board Member Tom Guerra recently caught up with Ronnie to discuss his excellent new live album "Just for Today," which features Ronnie, Jim Mouradian (bass), Lorne Entress (drums), and Dave Limina (Hammond B3 and piano).

BRIAN RAY - FROM BLUES TO BEATLES
A journeyman guitarist who has spent the past 11 years with Paul McCartney, Brian Ray recently sat with VG to discuss his new band “The Bayonets,” Gibson’s upcoming Brian Ray signature model, and traveling the world as a sideman to a Beatle.

JEFF PEVAR - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH AND CAVES
Jeff Pevar remains a much sought after session player, with over two decade's experience recording and performing with a wide array of music's finest. In 2010, Jeff was asked to write the music for the PBS documentary, “The Marble Halls Of Oregon” about the Oregon Caves National Monument. Without preparing as much as a note of music and armed with a couple of acoustic instuments, Jeff spontaneously conceived and improvised twelve tracks that evolved into "From the Core," his long awaited debut cd.

IAN HUNTER FOR PRESIDENT!
With almost five decades in the music business, Ian Hunter has seen his share of fads, trends and Johnny Come Latelys. Although the unknowing may associate his former band Mott the Hoople with Glam Rock, true fans know that pure, unbridled rock and roll was the heart of their existence. It is this same spirit that buoys Ian’s 20th studio effort, “When I’m President,” arguably his best release since 1979’s “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic.” Recorded with his powerhouse backing group “The Rant Band,” consisting of former Wings drummer Steve Holley, bassist Paul Page, guitarists Mark Bosch and James Mastro, and Andy Burton on keyboards, Hunter, who turned 73 in June 2012, plays with the energy and conviction of a man one third his age...

JON POUSETTE-DART AND JIM CHAPDELAINE
During the 1970’s, The Pousette-Dart Band was one of America’s busiest touring groups, working with such acts as The Byrds, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, Billy Joel, James Taylor, The J. Geils Band, Peter Frampton and many others. Led by singer, songwriter, arranger and guitarist Jon Pousette-Dart, son of the world renowned artist Richard Pousette Dart, the group recorded four excellent albums for Capitol Records before a change in the music industry resulted in the group’s breakup. Since then, Jon has worked as a solo artist, collaborating for the past 10 years with guitarist / producer Jim Chapdelaine...

TED NUGENT - THE TONEQUEST INTERVIEW
Who among us has played more than six thousand shows, sold 30 million records, arrived at the peak of their career bankrupt, rebounded with a vengeance and is still throwing down loud and proud thirty years hence? Uh-huh. Ted. In case you hadn’t noticed, the state of Michigan, and the city of Detroit in particular, have turned out some very interesting human beings…

JARED SCHARFF - SATURDAY NIGHT'S ALRIGHT
In just a scant few years, guitarist Jared Scharff has garnered a lifetime's worth of experiences in the music business.  From his time on a major record label and extensive studio experience as an in-demand session cat, to his dream gig with the Saturday Night Live band , he has always remained focused, professional and optimistic about what he is doing. 

JAY GEILS PLAYS JAZZ - INTERVIEW
If you grew up in the 1970's the name “J. Geils” conjures up images of a 5 piece band playing raucous rock and roll to hip shaking partyers…Led by guitarist John ”Jay” Geils, (not “Jerome” as many have thought), the group toured the world and recorded more than a dozen albums for Atlantic and EMI which sold millions before parting ways in the early 1980's. Originally concentrating on blues, R&B and soul, The J Geils Band later adopted more of a straight ahead rock and roll sound resulting in numerous hit singles including the blockbusters “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold"....

"MUDCRUTCH" ALBUM REVIEW FOR MODERN GUITARS
My first impression of the new Tom Petty / Mudcrutch album (Reprise Records) is that it represents the missing link between The Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street . Seriously. This record sounds like it could have come out in 1970 and yet at the same time, sounds brand new...

MIKE CAMPBELL - THE TONEQUEST REPORT INTERVIEW
From the beginning, Mike has always preferred to play vintage guitars and amps, and in our discussion he tells us why with such great candor. Mike was equally sharing as he covered his influences, recipes for good tone, and his new side project "The Dirty Knobs"...

MIKE CAMPBELL - RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM - The Premier Guitar Interview
Mike Campbell has been laying down tasteful, unobtrusive licks for over 30 years, and while that might be enough for lesser constitutions, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. We sit down with Mike to talk about the music, the gear and the state of rock n’ roll. For well over 30 years, Mike Campbell’s tasteful guitar playing has been a key ingredient to...

BOOK REVIEW : LIKE A ROLLING STONE - THE STRANGE LIFE OF A TRIBUTE BAND (Broadway Books) In the late 1970s, around the time the concept of “Classic Rock” took hold, a parallel phenomenon of “tribute bands” started to emerge. These bands, which either looked and/or sounded like their archetypes, offered fans a close approximation without the platinum price tag of a concert ticket. Today, every major rock 'n' roll act has one or more tribute bands, ranging from the great (Beatlemania) to the zany (Tiny Kiss, a KISS tribute composed entirely of dwarves)...

BIG AL ANDERSON - PAWN SHOP GUITARS - INTERVIEW
In the past two years since we last spoke to him, songwriter and master of the Telecaster Al Anderson has been extremely productive. Over a dozen of his songs appear on Vince Gill's new quadruple disc set “These Days”, and Anderson has recently broken his moratorium on touring to be part of Vince's band. In between his songwriting and touring responsibilities, Big Al has managed to put together a new album entitled “Pawn Shop Guitars”, his most cohesive and rocking effort since he left the legendary NRBQ in 1993.

JOHNNY WINTER - GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUE - INTERVIEW
Few would argue that Johnny Winter is among the giants of blues and rock and roll guitar playing. His aggressive, fiery playing has influenced just about every rock and blues guitarist who came of age since, from Billy Gibbons to Billy Corgan, Stevie Ray Vaughan to Steve Morse. Several of his early albums, including “Johnny Winter And Live” became textbooks for playing rock and roll and blues guitar licks. But decades of addiction and mismanagement had forced Winter into relative obscurity, until just recently, when his career began a resurgence in a manner eerily similar to the comeback that Winter himself had engineered for Muddy Waters, no doubt Johnny's proudest accomplishment...

MARK NOMAD - INTRODUCING "ACOUSTIC LAND"- NOMAD
MARK NOMAD'S music has been heard on radio stations all over the world and has been used commercially in both television and film. Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Nomad began playing music in the 1960's and by the mid-1970's, was sharing the concert stage with many of the biggest names in show business. As co-founder of the original “Little Village” in 1973, Mark gained a reputation as a “guitarists' guitarist.” Nomad has just released his first all-acoustic cd, “ Acoustic Land ” on Blue Star Records...

BOB MARGOLIN - A STEADY ROLLIN' MAN - INTERVIEW
"Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin is a blues guitar player who has been a constant presence on the Blues Scene, gigging non-stop since before his 7-year '70s stint in Muddy Waters' band, and leading his own band and revues ever since. His latest album is bringing him fresh attention, but he has always lived his life around playing blues on a guitar...

HILTON VALENTINE – THE ORIGINAL ANIMAL - INTERVIEW
Hilton Valentine was born on May 21, 1943, in North Shields, Northumberland, near Newcastle, England. Like many other players who came out of the UK, Hilton was drawn to the fast rootsy sound of skiffle music, made popular by Lonnie Donegan whose cover of “Rock Island Line” became a top 10 hit in both the UK and the US. After learning a few chords, Hilton formed his own skiffle band called The Heppers and started to gig at local venues. Eventually, the Heppers left skiffle behind, adopted a harder rock 'n' roll sound, and renamed themselves The Wildcats. Working in the clubs of Tyne and Newcastle, The Wildcats amassed a local cult following and Hilton made a name for himself as a hot guitarist with wild stage antics. Around the same time (1963), an unknown but persistent bassist by the name of Chas Chandler took notice of Hilton’s aggressive playing and onstage antics and asked him to join his group called The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, soon to be rechristened The Animals…

THE PIXIES - ALTERNATIVE GODFATHERS - INTERVIEW
In the late 1980's, the Pixies unique brand of punk, pop and guitar rock almost single handedly created the alternative music movement of the 1990's.  Their sound served as the blueprint for a host of new artists including Nirvana, and were even cited as a major influence on more established artists including U2 and David Bowie.  Bono called the Pixies “one of America 's greatest bands ever," and David Bowie was such a fan that he later covered several Pixies songs, remarking "I thought they were probably the very best band in America during the '80s."

CREAM IN NEW YORK (10/25/05) - REVIEW FOR MODERN GUITARS MAGAZINE

I was lucky enough to get a good seat for last night's Cream reunion show at Madison Square Garden and must say that I was simply blown away by the show.  Health-wise, I didn't know what to expect as I'd read about Jack Bruce's liver transplant and over the years the pictures I've seen of Ginger Baker have made Keith Richards look spry...

ANDY FRASER - FINALLY "FREE" - INTERVIEW

In the late '60's, Free emerged as a four-piece blues rock powerhouse, a logical bridge of sorts between Cream and Led Zeppelin. Fronted by the incredible voice of Paul Rodgers and the stinging guitar of Paul Kossoff, the group's rhythm section consisted of Andy Fraser on bass and Simon Kirke on guitar. Besides being a principal songwriter for the group, Fraser was an incredibly talented and innovative bassist who (despite his teenager status) had already passed through the ranks of John Mayall's legendary Bluesbreakers. During his time with Free, Andy experienced the extreme ups and downs that come with being in a world class rock and roll band; from the success of his smash single "All Right Now", to the rush of playing at major events including 1969 and 1970 Isle of Wight Festivals, to the ultimate heartbreak of the band's demise due to personnel and drug issues...

BIG AL ANDERSON - TO NASHVILLE BY WAY OF CONNECTICUT - INTERVIEW
Ask people what they know about "Big Al" Anderson and you'll probably hear very different responses. Rockers will say that for 22 years, he was the Tele slingin' driving force behind NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet), writing and singing their best known songs…Fans of underground and classic rock will remember him for his '60's cult band "The Wildweeds", who's hit single "No Good To Cry" was covered by The Allman Bros (when they were called "Hourglass"), and country music fans view him as Nashville royalty, cranking out an ever growing catalog of hit songs. Recently recognized by BMI as a Country Songwriter of the Year, Anderson has written for a "Who's Who" of country music's elite, including: Hank Williams Jr., Carlene Carter, Alabama, Sammy Kershaw, Trisha Yearwood, The Mavericks, Charlie Daniels, Asleep at the Wheel, and his recent efforts with Vince Gill are included on Gill's Grammy-winning "Next Big Thing". And the list goes on…

ON THE PASSING OF GEORGE HARRISON...
I first became aware of The Beatles and more specifically, George Harrison, when I was about 5 years old. One of my earliest memories was listening to "Sgt. Pepper's" while sitting with my Dad, both of us looking with wonder at the cover layout with its images of the band in their neon suits. In particular, George's sitar and deliberate vocal style of "Within You, Without You" were unlike anything I heard before...

G.E. SMITH - SNL, DYLAN AND MORE - INTERVIEW
One of the most in-demand blues/rock guitarists of the past twenty years is GE Smith. From his 1970’s New England club work with the legendary "The Scratch Band" and his stints with Hall and Oates to his ten year gig leading the Saturday Night Live band, his resume reads like a Who’s Who of modern music. While on SNL, GE (short for George Edward) performed with Eddie Van Halen, Keith Richards, Rickie Lee Jones, Al Green, Bryan Ferry, David Gilmour, Lonnie Mack, Dave Edmonds, Johnny Winter, and Buddy Guy. . "I've been so lucky to get into these fantasy situations that happened over and over on "SNL". I got to play with everybody." Each week, guitarists worldwide would tune in to SNL to check out the GE’s incredible vintage gear including tweed Fender amps, early 60’s Gibson Firebirds, 1950’s Telecasters and Les Pauls, and the ultra rare 1959 Korina Flying V’s...

JOHNNY WINTER - STILL ALIVE AND WELL - INTERVIEW
John Dawson Winter has been a troubadour for the blues for over forty years, plying his razor sharp licks from the Texas roadhouses where he first cut his teeth in the early 60's through the massive audiences of rock festivals like Woodstock, to his world tours of the present day. A true original in the Texas guitar slinger tradition of T-Bone Walker, Freddie King and Albert Collins, Winter's instantly recognizable guitar style and gravely roar have gained him a worldwide following and reverence in both the rock and blues communities alike...

RICK DERRINGER on his days with Johnny Winter - INTERVIEW
Guitar great Rick Derringer talks candidly to Tom Guerra for Vintage Guitar magazine about his days performing as a bandmate of Johnny Winter in "Johnny Winter AND," and producing some of Winter's most popular albums. Look for a new book on Derringer and other 70's rock guitarists, due to hit the stores in late 2001...

JOHN HIATT - AMERICA'S TROUBADOUR - INTERVIEW
Over the past three decades, John Hiatt has emerged as one of America's most inventive songwriters, covering the genres of rock, blues, acoustic, folk and new wave. As Hiatt was developing his own songwriting techniques, artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, The Everly Brothers, Three Dog Night, Iggy Pop and Paula Abdul have taken notice and covered his tunes. In the late 80's, both Jeff Healey ("Angel Eyes") and Bonnie Raitt ("Thing Called Love") hit platinum with Hiatt-penned tunes. Most recently, Eric Clapton and B.B. King chose Hiatt's "Riding with the King" as the title track for their Grammy-winning cd, and Hiatt himself was named artist/songwriter of the year at the 2000 Nashville Music Awards, as well as being nominated for a Grammy for his last cd "Crossing Muddy Waters."...

W. G. "SNUFFY" WALDEN - SCORING HIS OWN SOUNDTRACK - INTERVIEW
His music is heard by millions each week, yet "Snuffy Walden" isn't exactly a household name. With the release of his first solo cd "Music By...W. G. Snuffy Walden" on Windham Hill Records, that just might change...

JIMMY CRESPO - ROCK JOURNEYMAN - INTERVIEW
The career of Jimmy Crespo has spanned three decades, from his stellar 5 year stint with Aerosmith to his recent work with Rod Stewart on his last world tour. In addition, Jimmy has gigged and/or recorded with Bernie Taupin, Stevie Nicks, Julian Lennon, Billy Squire, and a host of others. Steven Tyler has called Crespo "One of the best guitarists I've ever known," and his guitar work is a textbook study in classic hard rock...

RICK DERRINGER - BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE IN SARASOTA - CONCERT REVIEW
Starting off with a wicked version of "Still Alive and Well", Rick and his very tight band seemed to cover all the bases, playing flat out rock n' roll, to jazzy (a white hot, cool jazz rendition of "R&RHK"), to progressive to bluesy...

"HEAVY LOAD - FREE" - BOOK REVIEW
This exceptional 300 page epic chronicles the story of the seminal British blues-rock band Free. Leaving no stone unturned, authors David Clayton and Todd K. Smith have painstakingly detailed the rise and fall of this band, from their early pub gig days in swinging late-sixties London, through the massive chart success of "Allright Now", to the varied fortunes of vocalist Paul Rodgers, drummer Simon Kirke, bassist Andy Fraser, and guitarist Paul Kossoff. Obviously a labor of love, Free historians Clayton and Smith have transformed the magic of Free's music and the chemistry of the band into print through conversations with the surviving members and some of rock's most respected names...

SIMON KIRKE AND JOHN "RABBIT" BUNDRICK - INTERVIEW
I recently got a chance to talk to former Free drummer Simon Kirke and keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick about the new book "Heavy Load", the story of Free. Since the breakup of Free, Simon went on to fortune and fame with Bad Company, and "Rabbit" has played with a host of big names including Bob Marley, Johnny Nash, Mick Jagger, and Snuffy Walden...

PAUL KOSSOFF - A RETROSPECTIVE
For a scant few years beginning in the mid-1960’s, Great Britain was responsible for producing arguably the finest crop of rock guitarists ever. This era began with Eric Clapton, who first made rock n’ roll musicianship hip with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and later the Cream. These now well chronicled “Clapton is God” years must have truly motivated his peers, because shortly after, a whole new school of heirs apparent were catching our ears. Jeff Beck shook us up with his manic feedback and wonderful phrasing; Peter Green gained admiration for his supernatural blues playing; Mick Taylor excelled on electric slide; Jimmy Page’s composition and layering produced sounds never heard before; and Paul Kossoff gave us his mastery of the understated and his frighteningly expressive vibrato...

IAN HUNTER – IT'S A MIGHTY LONG WAY DOWN ROCK N' ROLL - INTERVIEW
...so wrote Ian Hunter in the 1974 classic "All The Way From Memphis" and after more than three decades in the business, he knows it first hand. This year marks the thirty year anniversary of the debut of Mott The Hoople, the rock and roll outfit that Hunter rode to glory as songwriter, pianist, and guitarist...

RONNIE EARL - THE SPIRIT OF TONE - INTERVIEW
Ronnie Earl is currently in the middle of an extremely successful tour in support of his latest release (his first for the legendary Verve label) entitled "The Colour of Love." Ronnie is considered by critics, fans, and musicians alike to be one of the greatest guitarists to ever grace this planet, and his music truly transcends genres and touches the soul. Be it jazz, blues, or standards, his dynamic approach to playing is respectful of his influences and at the same time transporting jazz and blues into the next millenium...

JOHN HAMMOND, STACY PHILLIPS, DAVID HAMBURGER - RESONATOR KINGS - INTERVIEW
John Hammond, Stacy Phillips, and David Hamburger have all traveled vastly different roads in their quest for resonator nirvana, yet they are unified in the recognition they’ve received as resophonic masters. From Hammond’s pure, passionate Delta blues to Phillips’ traditional lap style world music stylings, to Hamburger’s cerebral new blues, they all have cut unique paths in finding their own voices...

MATT "GUITAR" MURPHY - BLUES BROTHER NUMBER ONE - INTERVIEW
Legendary guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy was born Dec 28, 1929 in Sunflower, MS, and first made a name for himself in Memphis in the early 1950’s. The Beale Street music scene at this time consisted of two styles; up-scale jazz played by artists such as Phineas Newborn Sr. and Tuff Green, and blues played by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King. Matt was one of the few musicians who was able to successfully bridge the gap and play with both factions...

KENNY AARONSON – FROM DUST TO DYLAN (TO MAMBO SONS!) - INTERVIEW
For over twenty-five years, Kenny Aaronson has been recognized as a world-class rock and roll bassist. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Kenny started playing bass at age 15, and soon became a regular on the New York scene. Most of us first heard Kenny’s playing on the 1973 Stories’ hit "Brother Louie," which shot to the top of the American charts in September of that year. Since then he has gone on to record and tour with some of the biggest names in the business, including Hall and Oates, Rick Derringer, and Bob Dylan...

JEFF PEVAR - GUITARIST TO THE STARS - INTERVIEW
If you don’t recognize his name, I am sure you have heard his guitar. Jeff Pevar is a much sought after session player, with over a decade’s experience recording and performing with a wide array of music’s finest including Ray Charles, David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones, Joe Cocker, Donald Fagen, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, Linda Ronstadt, Shawn Colvin, Jackson Browne, and a host of others. In addition, Jeff has brought his masterful guitar style to dozens of national TV and radio commercials...

 

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