Omaha Rainbow : Issue 12
I studied, learned how to read music from a guitar teacher. I only took about fourteen lessons, then that was all I wanted because the reading of the music I didn't want. I just wanted to play the songs. I started playing in bands, which is the way you learn, I think, just by playing in a group or whatever. Did that all through High School. The California surf music was happening at first, and then we started imitation rock like everybody does. After that I decided playing music was what I really wanted to do, so I did music in High School, then I went to Valley Junior College inVan Nuys and took two years of music there as a music major. That's where I learned my harmony and theory, all of which is important to understand music. Then I transferred to the University of Oregon in the north part of the state. They did not communicate with me at all. They were very classical orientated, but they didn't accept the guitar so I dropped out. But I loved Oregon so I stayed there and put together a band myself. We wrote all original material and came down to Los Angeles with all this fantastic stuff, then nobody wanted it. We called ourselves Plimsoul, as a matter of fact, because we were into English rock 'n' roll. That's a tennis shoe, right ?
Actually, we were into The Who when they came out with "Tommy'' as a rock opera and we said, "Why can't there be more than one rock opera?" We wrote a sort of semi rock opera, a bunch of songs that all led into each other and eventually explained the whole story. Then they came out with "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and we immediately canned that idea, because we knew the commercial people would jump on it. We just couldn't keep alive up there, there wasn't enough work. That's when I decided it wasn't really me, anyway, playing English rock 'n' roll. I'm an American, so I decided to go back to American roots. I had always liked that type of music, but The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Gilded Palace of Sin" was the first album that really turned me on to pedal steel. Still, to this day, it's one of the classics. One of the best country rock albums that ever was, and Sneaky Pete's best playing ever. I used to go and listen to The Burritos. I didn't even have enough money to go in and see them, I'd lean up against the wall outside the club every night.
Finally I got in and met Sneaky Pete and told him how interested I was. I bought my first steel guitar from him. He plays in a completely different tuning than all the other steel guitar players. That's why he has such a unique sound. But it's real strange and obscure and he couldn't even explain to me whatever he could get musically. He just knew in his head how it worked, but I said, "Well, what chord does this change to?" He said, "I don't know. I think of it as angles and this one just pulls a string and that does that, you know?" Really spacey.
So I sat at home, played along with those records, but never copying the licks. That's what I don't like to do. I mean, you can learn from copying other people's licks and lines and stuff, but then you will tend to use them and not sound like yourself. The important thing is to establish your own identity with the instrument. Then I started playing bars, I guess. I figured the best way I'm gonna learn to master this instrument is to play on it. I became very disappointed at a certain point before I started playing the bars, because I didn't know what I wanted to do any more to make money. I decided to quit music and forget it. Then I found out nobody wanted me, all because I was a musician. "What experience?" "None, but I'm really willing to try. I want a secure life." They'd say, "Sorry, kid." Finally, somebody called me up and said, "You want to make 20 bucks playing in this club?" ''Sure," I said, "anything." Then I found out you could actually make money playing in those bars, enough to survive.
It was an education. It taught me how to play the steel guitar, because most musicians don't have the discipline to sit down and practice hours. The classical ones do it, but most rock musicians don't. But if you're playing five hours a night in a club, it is like practicing and learning and everything. If you do that six nights a week, you're gonna get better and you're gonna learn the instrument inside out, whatever you're doing.
So I used that, then I decided.....that was more of a pop group with pedal steel. I decided to go all the way back to country, back to the roots. That's when I got another steel, because most country players play in the tuning that I now play in. There's much more things you can do with it. Sneaky Pete is a little bit limited. He can't play a lot of it real fast with the same sound. Different tunings and different ranges. I played in the cowboy bars for two or three years, I guess, playing all the straight, stock country songs, which was an education.
(F of NM) When you say "the cowboy bars", what exactly are the cowboy bars, where are they and what happens in them?
O.K. Like, in the San Fernando Valley area, anyway, there's a whole country orientated clique. There's the one big one, of course, which everyone's heard about. The Palomino. Most of the big country stars that do the circuit will play there unless they're huge, and then they'll do a big concert. Merle Haggard wouldn't need to play there, but anyone else that's just got a couple of records, or whatever, plays there. Then all around the San Fernando Valley there's all sorts of other little clubs that are strictly country western music and drinking, and that certain type of people go there. People from the mid-west, or wherever they moved out and congregated, they're still country music fans. Then there's all sorts of truck drivers, and that's their music anyway. You'll find those bars over in Bakersfield on the other side of the hills. All around California, in fact. They're very rowdy. I mean it was scary. There's one place I played called The Playtime Bar, and the only telephone was right outside the back door. I'd go out there and call my wife once in a while during a break. More times than not I'd say ''Well, dear, I have to hang up. There's a fight in the lobby going on now." It was really a low class type thing, but it was real country music. I liked it but it was weird. But at least I was making a steady income playing music, and that was fine with me. I thought it was a thrill.
Were you playing with a regular band then?
Different bands. You'd keep a band together for a very short time because the owners would change bands. The strangest guys in these bands. A lot consisted of guys that did other things. Like, one guy was a welder all day and he liked to play music. He couldn't sustain his life through it, so he welded all day and played music for fun at night. He made an extra 20, 25 bucks on the side. It was an education for me because I learned a lot about that whole thing, and I knew the roots then.
(F of NM) What sort of tunes did you do?
Boy, all the straight.....'Six Days on the Road' , a lot of Merle Haggard songs, Buck Owens songs, then mostly all the pop country things that you'd have to learn. One or two new songs a week that were coming out. Plus you still had to do all the stock things. Steel guitar instrumentals like 'Steel Guitar Rag'. I had a version of 'The Last Date' on the steel. It was really a lot of fun, and that type of music lent to steel guitar playing, as much as you wanted to play and it was cool. You listen to those records and the steel guitar player's going all over while the guy is singing. with Linda I don't do that, because I've tried to get away from that. I don't like it, playing all sorts of notes when someone's trying to sing. I like to use it very orchestrally.
Anyway, I was doing that and I went to a concert with my wife. I hadn't been to a concert in a long time, and we went to the Anaheim Convention Center. 10,000 people, we sat in the third row, and it was Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young. Eddie Black was playing steel with her band and Ben Keith with Neil Young. I was all excited when we went and it just sounded great. It was grea ! I said to my wife, "That's what I want to be doing. I don!t wanna play in a crummy bar with a lot of people who are drunk, not even applauding a lot of the time. That's what I want to do." She said, "O.K."
Two nights later we went to The Troubador and saw John Stewart. I'd bought his "Cannons in the Rain" album and I loved it. I went and saw him and thought he was great. He had Chris Darrow with him then, another drummer, Loren Newkirk and Arnie. My wife said, "He needs a steel guitar." I said, "Oh, I don't know." Anyway, to push my career along, for Christmas my wife printed up these cards that said, "Dan Dugmore, Pedal Steel Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar and my address and phone number." I thought, this is terrible musicians don't do it, but more often than not you're playing, people go, ''Hey, give me your number,'' and you can't find your pen or some paper, so I had these cards. My wife says, "Well, you ought to give him your phone number and tell him he should use a steel player." I said, "Oh, no, I can't do that." But she wanted me to get her some cigarettes, so I walked to the back of The Troubador, and standing right by the cigarette machine was John Stewart. I thought, well, this isn't like trying to get into the dressing room. He's here and so am I. So I introduced myself, said, "I really like your music and I think a steel guitar would sound good in it. If you ever need one, please give me a call and I'd like to audition." Gave him the card with the phone number, he said, "Thank you," and I thought nothing else of it.
Three days later the phone rang. My wife answered. She was a John Stewart fan from "California Bloodlines", before I was. She said, "Who is it ?" A voice says, "John Stewart." She said, "Oooohhh," she was all excited. I talked with him and the next day came down and auditioned with him at The Troubador in the daytime. Chris Darrow was leaving his band, he liked the way I played and said, "Well, we're off to Dallas next weekend." Then I was off. My wife couldn't believe it. She says, "I didn't know that audition meant you leaving me. You said you wanted to be on the big stages, not that you were gonna be gone!"
So off we went. We rehearsed a couple of days, then we played down in Dallas. The first big concert I had played in a long time and it was scary. Then they booked us into a club there. John was getting pneumonia, or something, the club was terrible and so was the sound system. We went in there and played one night, but John was too sick. They took him to the hospital and the doctor said he could not go on that week. But he didn't like it there, anyway. The surprise to me was that here was my first time on the road and it was cut short. Also, that's where he got that line, "Have you ever been in Texas with your lungs full of holes?" ('Ride Stone Blind' on the "Wingless Angels'' album).
I ended up going on tour, which was the first time I'd ever been on a tour of the States. It was all the local clubs around. There's a whole smaller club circuit, like the size of The Troubador, across the States, that that type of person can play before you are at the real concert stage. He'd get a few concerts here and there. A college or something. We went through different musicians, but he really liked the way I played because I try to keep out of their way, you know? We got along really good. Then Nik Venet came along and heard us at The Troubador when they were friends again. Actually, they had been considering a live album and my wife said to Nik, "You've just got to do a live album."
Nik and John talked about it and finally decided to do it. Where he was most popular was in Phoenix, so that is where they decided to do it. At the time he'd got rid of the bad drummer he had and got hold of Jon Douglas, who plays drums and also keyboards. He was playing drums, then, on all the ballads, he'd move over to keyboards and there'd be no drumming at all. When the time came to cut the album John didn't think Jon was the drummer to have, good though he was, but a better keyboard player. He wanted to get a name guy or somebody really hot, and he got Jimmy Gordon to do it. Then he got Loren Newkirk for piano on some things and organ on others, plus Mike Settle, Denny Brooks and Buffy to sing background. He wanted a whole big sound.
It was almost too much, but we tried to keep it as sirnple and tasty....you know, with that many musicians playing I think it wasn't very cluttered, it was very studioised. That was my first real big album.
I'd cut a lot of stuff in studios, but this was the first thing I knew was gonna be an album, the whole thing, and I missed the plane! I got to the airport, it was Friday and we were supposed to cut the album that night, and I just said, "I have to get to Phoenix. I'm gonna play on a live album, the first album of my life!" They said, "There's no way we can get you there. Everything is booked on a Friday." They finally had to fly me into a couple of other cities and then work me around to get me into Phoenix. I was scared to death, but we made it there. Tom De Lisle was there. They flew all the way from Detroit. It was really nice.
The first night.....it wasn't a disaster, it just was not good enough to be a live album, but everybody listened to it and could hear where the mistakes were. What wasn't right. We rehearsed the next day some of ballads and stuff, got all prepared, but it was very nervous because then, that next night, this had to be it. Incredible amount of pressure on everybody because you know when it's all being recorded but, as it was, it did come off good I thought.
After that we did some more touring and I was hoping the Phoenix album was going to do better. They had a fight over it, too, because RCA only wanted to make it a single album and there were just too many songs to choose from. They took about eight songs out as it was but they did put out this double album. I guess it sold about fifty thousand, just about payed for itself anyhow.
Then I worked on "Wingless Angels" with him, which was a time when he had a lot of dental problems. Then, after we'd cut most of the album and were down to overdubbing some more steelparts, I got an offer to play with Linda. I told John about it and said I really wanted to do it. I thought this was going to be good for me, she knew alot of people like the Eagles that I really liked. All the stuff where I was aiming for at that point. He was really mad at me. I don't blame him because he keeps losing musicians. He goes, "Russ Kunkel did this to me, David Kemperer, all these musicians have done this to me, and this album's gonna happen." But it really wasn't. It was good but it was not perfect as far as his teeth problems and everything else. It was very difficult for me to do. As it was he got really mad at me and we had a kind of altercation. He said, "You make up your mind and decide what you're gonna do." He made me so nervous I couldn't play on that track that night. It was just the most uptight vibes I've ever had and John and I were.....I'm not a fighting person at all, and neither is John. He was in terrible pain from his teeth, now I was leaving him and he had to go on the road again. I ended up leaving and we didn't talk for a while. We still really cared about each other but it was just too uptight. Finally we made up again. He said he had some dates and wanted to know if I'd help him out. I did and we got back together. Later he and Arnie broke up and then got back together again. The same thing.
It's very hard because he's a very emotional person, and it's hard t lose people in your band. Especially when you're relying on them. He got another steel player who he didn't keep. Got rid of him and just couldn't find anybody right, so I've helped him out. Let's see, he had some dates at The Roxy. It's funny because Andrew Gold had some dates there and I was playing with Linda and Andrew. We had a gig there with Linda, then I had to go the next week play The Roxy with Andrew, and after that play The Roxy with John Stewart. It was just like everybody knew me in that place. They said, "What are you doing, Dan Dugmore, who do you play with?" It was really funny.
Then he went in to cut some songs as a demo, and I helped him with that. It was after RCA let him go and he was trying to get another record contract. That was the last time I really talked to John, because he asked me about playing The Palomino with him then, and I said I was gonna be out of town. I haven't seen him since then but I learned all the new songs he had. The rest of the time has been with Linda.
Before we go on to these past years you've been with Linda, can you tell me a few things about the travelling around, the gigs you did? It's obviously very different to the way it is now!
Oh, yes, we did it really low budget. You had two guys to a room, and all our suitcases and equipment we took ourselves. If we could possibly put it all in one station wagon we did, and squeeze maybe four guys in the front seat. All the drums and amps and steel and guitars in the back of one station wagon to travel a lot of places. It was kind of fun, it almost adds a kind of camaraderie, everybody working together made it a very small unit and tight. You certainly got to know the guys in the band better. One funny thing that happened. John and I were rooming in this hotel and we had been up playing late at night, stayed up and got drinking and talking. Finally we crashed, and the maid knocked on the door at about 8 o'clock in the morning. He just screamed, "Go away, go away!" At 9 o'clock she knocks on the door again, then the phone rings at 9.30. It's the maid, she says,"You want your room made up?" That did it. I always just pull the pillow over my head. John picks up the phone, talks to the front desk. "This is John Stewart in room 102. You know that swimming pool outside my door? Well, if you want to find every piece of furniture in this room in there, then tell the maid to come in. Otherwise, she'd better not knock on the door again." It was really funny, he was going to throw everything in the pool, he was so mad.
A lot of funny things that happened, but basically John's really together. Always in a good humour. His stage raps are excellent. Incredibly funny things that he would come up with. But travelling around it was very small and very close. It was more exhausting because you had to do it all. We'd share the driving. Most of the time we didn't have to drive more than 200 miles, otherwise we flew. It was very low budget because he wasn't making a lot of money and it was hard.
Is that the pick-up truck immortalised in the song he should have recorded, Birtha ?
Actually, that's his own little pick-up he had up in 'Frisco. Have you heard that song? Really great. He wrote that one on driving down to a gig we had at The Ice House in Pasadena. Just popped up with the song. It's good because he'd already have the songs together and come and present them to the band and play them a couple of times and just embellish upon it.
When you first joined him, who was in the band ?
Myself and Arnie Moore, and a guy named Ian Hoffman was playing drums. He didn't keep very long. Loren Newkirk played sometimes, but he didn't go on that first tour which turned out just a four-piece. Steel guitar, and I also played some electric and acoustic. John and Arnie and the drummer.....as nice as it was, it was almost too empty. We really missed the piano on certain tunes so, therefore, it wasn't long before he got rid of Ian, because he wasn't happy with the way Ian played. Got Jon Douglas to play drums, who actually played real good drums for him, but was an even better keyboard player. So then he would switch back and forth, but we had to keep it a lot on a regular tour to a small number of people, because it's such a low budget. There wasn't too much you could do.
Then Gene Garfin came into it, didn't he ?
Yeah, he decided to move Jon Douglas permanently over to piano and add another member, and we added Gene. He was in a band with Kenny Edwards, Andrew Gold and a guy named Peter Bernstein, called The Rangers. Peter is a bass player who just produced Wendy Waldman's new album. They had their own band together with original songs, and Gene played drums with them.
That would explain why Gene turned up on Andrew Gold's first album. I'd always assumed it had been through you.
Well, you see, The Rangers were only together a short while and they didn't even do an album, or anything, but they opened up a John Stewart concert in Phoenix one time. Then, in Aspen, they actually backed him up on some songs. They played, then John came up and he used some of them as a back-up band. Gene and Andrew and Kenny. They were into their own trip, but he finally got Gene to come and play with him. Gene is a really good drummer, the only thing was that at that point he was inconsistent. He would play really good some nights, and some nights it wouldn't be so good. So John wasn't superbly happy with him and then, when it came time to do the "Wingless Angels" album he did not want to use Gene. He let Nik Venet call all the shots.....which you do. You go to the producer and say, "How can I do the best thing ?" Nik Venet uses Ronnie Tutt a lot, who is Elvis Presley's drummer, so that is who he got.
Where did Jon Douglas come from?
He came from Canada and had played with The Rowan Brothers. Then he went to Hawaii and played with bands there. Moved back to Los Angeles and that's where we first met him. He got the auditioning and went on the road playing drums. While we were on the road we found out he could play keyboards. By the time it came to the Phoenix album, John Stewart decided to use him strictly on keyboards, either piano or organ. Jon's always had in mind his own group and that's what he put together on the side. John went through a long period of just not working, maybe a TV show here and there, but that is not enough to support a band. So Jon worked really intently on putting his own thing together and getting the deal with A&M Records. Took them about two years to finally get out this album. (The groups name is Dancer, and that's the title, too, of their album. On A&M SP 4585, available only on import in the UK).
We could hardly believe it when we heard Arnie had left John. It must have been quite a blow for him only to play on one track on "Wingless Angels"?
John went through a big dilemma about where do you draw the line between your friends and being a good musician. What do you do? That's why, on the album, he said to Arnie, "It's gone to the point where you do not use your friends because they're your friends. You try to make the best album you can. Nik Venet says Joe Osborn's the best bass player I could use, so I should use him." Therefore, that caused bad vibes between Nik and Arnie, and John too, and it got worse. By the end he and Nik were not happy, he and I were not happy, the band were not happy, everybody was unhappy, and his teeth were still hurting like hell.
(JT) It's a shame, because the trouble with using a Joe Osborn is they've no committment to someone like Stewart, whereas Arnie did have that.
Right. That's what I was saying to Peter earlier. It's just that you're gonna find more.....even if you have to take twenty takes to get it because the guy might make a mistake, there's gonna be more feeling behind it. John knew I really felt his music a lot. I believed in what I was doing, he liked the way I played and I was open to it.....but we started fighting, because he was telling me to play too much what he wanted to play. He said, "Play this and don't play here and play this line in here," because that is what he wanted. I respect that. Most sessions I go in to as a studio musician, that's how you have to think. You leave your ego outside the door. You go in and you want to make the best thing for the record and the artist. You don't go in and say, "I want to play the hottest guitar licks in the world." You must want to go in and make it right. But when you're in a band and actually doing this day after day it becomes part of you, just like we are with Linda now, so that you do not want that. You want to say, "This is what I put into it. You hire me for the way I play and my taste, and if you don't like it then forget it." That's the whole problem John has always had in the studio.
Nik Venet, ever since that episode, he doesn't even have the artist there when they're overdubbing most of the time. Do you know what I mean? Because the artist sits there and says this and that, and all it does is confuse the issue. So he puts it on and then, when the musicians have gone, he brings in the artist and says, "Hey, listen to this.'' Then, if he says, "I like it," O.K. If, "I don't like it," fine. That's the way Nik works now.
John has had so much experience in the studio, but Nik Venet has his own style of producing and I really respect Nik and he uses me a lot, he uses Waddy a lot, and that I respect of a producer. He has his people he uses. He keeps them working and likes them and they work for him and, therefore, there's a good rapport between them. John now is gonna start all over again, and it's gonna be very important who produces him this time. You need a record that's gonna sound good. As much as I love Nik, his records are mixed in the old way. They're not pressed very hot and they're not recorded very hot. They record with all the needles in the very safe level. They don't red line the needles so, therefore, when you put a John Stewart record on the record player, the db level is much lower than your average record you put on there. You find yourself turning up the volume a little bit more to get the same sound. John needs to be with someone that is gonna put out a really hot record on him, that shows his voice in good style, because he has the songs. The material is there. The reason his material isn't happening must be because of his publishing company. They're the ones who have to push those songs.
The song that keeps getting recorded is 'July, You're a Woman'. You say, "What's happening? What's the publishing company doing for you?" ''Well, Robert Goulet just cut July'." Look at all these songs this man has that could be done. It's a shame that isn't happening, but it's also a shame he's not happening because he is an artist in his own right. He's in the position Linda was in a few years ago. If he could get a hit single, a great John Stewart hit single, and then sell that album, his backlog of all these things would happen. As it is, in the United States anyway, he has what we call a cult following. The people that know him, they really love him and they really love his music. They're real loyal and it's amazing. When I used to play with him, every song you'd start everybody would applaud. They'd know the song.
Same here in England, just the same. Anyway, what you've just said leads on to the circuit he plays .....where he plays.
There's a club circuit across the United States. Not every state has them, but in a lot of towns they have that certain size of club. In Denver it's The Warehouse or Ebbut's Field, in Los Angeles it's The Troubador, in San Francisco it's The Boarding House. All the way back east they have them, too. Basically, when I was with him, that's what we did, plus college concerts. Sometimes a hall with 200 people, and sometimes 3000. Linda goes out now and does nothing but the big concerts. When I first joined her, before ''Heart Like a Wheel'' happened, we did some clubs and stuff, and we did a benefit this year at The Troubador for proposition 15, the nuclear power plant they wanted to build on top of the San Andreas fault. And the proposition lost, too. Everything we've done with Linda has lost. It's too bad, but at least the thing I like about that (and John has his political views, too) is she'll do a benefit for something she believes in. She goes out there and says to the people, "Don't take my word for it because I'm Linda Ronstadt. Just look into it is all I'm saying and make your own decision, but do find out about it." That's all you want them to do. We do political things for certain people that we like. Jackson Browne and Linda did a concert for Tom Hayden. He didn't win, but they were just saying we believe in him, and that's it. It's neat to be able to do that to raise money, it's a great way. I hope eventually more people do that. Peter Frampton is doing one in Los Angeles. Three nights at The Forum for a Crippled Children's Foundation. It's beautiful.
John, politically, was very close to Bobby Kennedy. He went on the campaign with him. That super picture of them all together on the back of the train. (You can find it on page 29 of The Phoenix concerts' Songbook). Just amazing how close he was. 'Bobby's Song' gets me every time. He's very close friends with Ethel Kennedy and his songs are political. He has a lot to say about America. What he's trying to capture is the roots of America and that's what he believes in. A lot of songs pertain to that, which is good because they're saying something. So many songs nowadays are a few lines and it's the music, it's not the lyrics. He has the lyrics. Coming from the folk era he is in a very limited field, musically, but he shouldn't expand from it, anyway, because that's who he is. That's his identity.
Going back to "Wingless Angels", it seemed to lose a lot when it finally came out. It's surprising to hear an album when it's being cut and you're playing it back in the studio and you're hearing the basic track and how everything is, and then when the final album comes out it sounds completely different. You think, 'Oh, they put strings on here and they did that.' The more things you put on, the further back it sits. When they record it in the studio, when they start to mix down, they start with the drums, get them to sound right. Then they put in the bass guitar, just to get a balance, then they put in this, put in that. By the time you get the band mixed you put the vocals in, which have got to be out in front of that. Now where you started with drums, they've become back here. Where they did sound real good and you could hear the drum sound, by the time you got that vocal out in front, everything is mixed. It doesn't have that punch or that presence that is needed. But that's where all Nik Venet's albums are, which is a style. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying I would prefer to hear him with a really hot record with very good sound and very simple instrumentation. He sounds so good on the Phoenix album, just him and an acoustic guitar, it gave me chills. I would sit there while he played these things and.....it was perfect.
If you were producing him, what would you do?
That's a hard question. The thing that a producer has to think about is commerciality. That's what Nik was going for with strings and everything else, because you're going for that comrnercial sound. The way I like John Stewart, I love the simplicity of it. I would love to hear a beautiful John Stewart album with just him and his guitar. Maybe one other acoustic guitar player. Because what's important is the value of his songs, the lyric and melody, and the rest is all just embellishment. I would like to hear him very raw, the real John Stewart, rather than embellished by too many things. Yet, because he's playing electric guitar now, his new songs are leaning towards more of a band sound. What I have to admire John for is he is happier now because of it. He's actually having fun playing music because he can jam, and you can do that electrically. So it's two idioms, but.....I would like to hear Peter Asher produce him now. I know Peter produced "Willard", but Peter has grown tremendously and now he has found a studio. I love the Sound Factory where we record Linda's stuff. It's an excellent studio, and with as much technique and the quality of those people recording him, it could be done with a band. If I was producing him I'd take him in that studio and record those songs like 'Old Rivers and Slow Moving Trains' and 'Louisianne', those type of things, with an excellent band and sound. They used RCA engineers on these past albums and they're all older guys who are very restricted. They think about the old ways, they don't like to do dangerous things. He needs to have a hot album because you've got to have a hot single, I mean, done hot.
Linda's album used the Aphex Aural Exciter System. After you've done the tracks and got everything on there, and you're going to put it on the record, it's a new thing that just boosts it. It doesn't distort it but it makes it hotter. That's why you put Linda's album on and it's hot, it'll push your speakers, which John hasn't had in an album yet. He doesn't need to be hard rock, he just needs to have that punch. Gordon Lightfoot, who is sort of in the same vein, you put on the two albums and his is so much out there than John's. I've heard "Phoenix Concerts" over the radio and it sounds very weak. It's not crisp in coming over but I'm sure it's gonna happen. Everything's gonna be new. Producer, band, the whole thing. He really does not have a band per se. When I was with him he was going through different guitar players, but he does have Pete Thomas now. An excellent drummer playing and really feeling his music. I would use Pete Thomas because it's important. He has so much to say, and so many single possibilities, that's what I would do.
Maybe being on a new label they'll put the thing behind him that he needs. He has such a catologue of material that blows your mind, that are such good songs, and meaningful. I'm glad he's away from RCA, though, because I talked to their people when we went on the road. I'd Say, "well, what's happening with John's new single ?" They'd say, "Well, you see, we've got a new Elvis Presley single coming out, and the new John Denver album's just released," and these guys, that's what they're doing. That's the business. I'd say, "But John Stewart's the one that needs to be pushed. They're gonna play John Denver whether you push it or not." And the art department would make up a whole catologue, a big John Denver poster to put in the record store along with fifty albums, to say here is John Denver's new album. Well, hell, put the fifty albums over there, they're gonna sell anyway, put up John Stewart! I found out why that happens is because those guys have the job, so if they spend all this money on John Stewart and it doesn't happen, they're out of a job. They spend it all on John Denver, they can say, "Look at all John Denver sold, millions of albums, didn't we do a good job."
It's very tricky, the business end, but you know and the people that know him.....that's why he's got to be good if he has a cult following. People that believe in him that much and people that travel all over the country. Tom De Lisle, for instance, but other people drive miles and miles to see him. We'd play down in San Diego, which is maybe 200 miles away, and people would drive down there to see him, and they may have just seen him in Los Angeles. Then they'll drive the next weekend somewhere else to see him. People drove from Los Angeles to Phoenix to see him. It's amazing that people can like him that much and he is still not that commercial.
It must have been very strange to go from the usual Chuck's Cellar type gig, to playing in front of all those people in Phoenix each time?
It was. At one point, when the Phoenix album came out, I thought this was it. I said, ''Now there's a John Stewart album with 3000 people going wild at the end of each song." John said the same thing, "Now we can finally do the big concerts because that's how people are going to recognise me now. They're gonna re late to that." It didn't go that way. It was poor management and poor agency booking and all that stuff. John needs a manager with a lot of pull. Number one, you're dealing with a weird record company and you're not a big artist on there, then the manager has to deal with them. If he's not a strong, heavy manager, forget it.
Peter Asher manages James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, and that's it. He can get out on the road with them, and whenever that isn't happening he's in producing, which he likes to do. Peter Asher could sign me, he could sign everybody in the world, and we'd all give our right arm to say, ''Sign me, Peter," because he is a powerful man. He's a shrewd business man, a very elegant person, yet he knows his business and he knows how to deal with those people. That's what John does not have, he doesn't have that type of manager yet. You have to have it. It's the eternal circle. He can't play the big concerts unless he has a record, but he can't get the people to know him unless he plays the concerts. Wherever you play a concert your album sales jump up immediately. Every town we played in with John the next day he would sell a whole bunch of records, and the same thing with Linda. It's very important to your record sales, yet if you're gonna play in one little club for a week to 200 people a night, what have you got? You could hit ten times that many in one night and be off to the next town. But if you can't pull that many people you have to stay in the smaller venues.
It's very difficult for John to have gone from The Kingston Trio, which had been the number one group at the time, to being a solo thing and having to go right back down to the pits to start over again. To keep having the belief that your next single or your next album is going to be the one. When it doesn't do so, it must be very disappointing. Andrew Gold put out one album that didn't do well, though the single happened a little bit, but he's not disappointed. He's got another album that he feels is better just coming out. Yet John's put out seven or eight albums and he's still not reached the comrnercial success he deserves. Not that he wants to be rich, or anything, he's living comfortably, but he loves to perform and he can't get that much work. It's a real shame, but maybe the new record deal will do something for him. You've just got to keep hoping for him.
Can you go through those states for me where he does get a good response?
California was good, Arizona of course, New Mexico, well, like he wrote in a song, "If I never go East of Denver again it'll be too soon." What he meant was, "They like me on this side of the United States, the other side is kind of strange." He's not so well recognised, except in a few places. In Boston, 'Arkansas Breakout' was a hit single, and everybody knew him because of that and wanted to hear it. The rest of the places you played a lot of people hadn't heard of him, yet you were booked in there and it was really rugged. I felt things were on the upswing after ''Phoenix Concerts" because we did start doing some big concerts. We played a big one at The Santa Monica Civic in Los Angeles. Dave Guard was there and came out and played banjo and we sang a song with him. It was a lot of fun. Dave is an incredibly nice guy. He living up north and is a guitar teacher now. We saw Nick Reynolds at The Roxy. Bob Shane has got The New Kingston Trio, going around singing the old Trio songs.
When I was with him I said, "John, let's quit playing these little clubs and let's be an opening act for some group. Play for 3000 people a night, hit that many people in a town and move on." He said, "No, I don't want to be an opening act. If I do that I'm just cutting myself. I'd rather be a headline act in a smaller place than an opening act in a bigger place." We went round and round, and I still believe you should be the opening act, because it doesn't matter if you're opening or closing if you can hit that many people to let them know who you are. That's what is important.
When we were talking earlier, you told me a funny story about Chris Whaelan.....
Arnie was such a big part of the whole John Stewart scene. When he'd do his raps, say little funny things, he'd go, "Right, Arnie?" Everybody who knew John knew who Arnie Moore was, and people would always be screaming out, "Hey, Arnie!" He'd go, "Heeeyyyy!" It was his personality. Me, I'm the quiet one and they'd make all the jokes about me. So when Arnie split from John, people would come to see him and pretty soon someone would call, "Where's Arnie?" Now Chris Whaelan, who was the new bass player, was even bigger than Arnie, so John would just look at him because he knew Chris was a little bit hurt at that. Chris would walk up to the microphone and go, "I ate him!"
One time, before Arnie left, we did the "Tonight" TV show when John Denver hosted it. He's a really nice guy. Denver came in the dressing room before we went out there. They'd been friends for years, and he said to Stewart, "I'm real nervous about hosting this show, so I want everything to go smooth. You're the only guy that could do anything to wreck me on this. Please don't do anything like that." John said, "Oh, of course not." We did the song, John walks back and shakes hands with John Denver and sits down, and the first thing he says to him is, "Whatever happened to Tarbaby Rohase?" Here we were on National TV and nobody in the audience knew what he was talking about, any more than I did. John Denver just sat there in a stupor, not knowing what to say. Eventually he said, ''Well, here's your new album, John.....'' Then he just kept ribbing him about the way he was singing, and stuff, it was really funny.
It was something so obscure for John Stewart to say, but he just wanted to blow his mind. They'd been friends for so long, and because he asked him not to mess with him, he messed with him. They really have respect for each other and I admire John Denver because they said in the beginning that if either one of us happens before the other, let's agree to help each other later on. I also respected Denver in one way, starting to use tunes by members of his band, because that helps them out. Linda's very good friends with all those people in his band. Whenever we get back in Washington, D.C., they always have a jam at night after our concert. They get all these excellent players like Mike Auldridge on dobro, all these people from the Seldom Scene, and they sit round a hotel room and play all night. I tell you, that's where some of the most beautiful music that you're ever gonna hear happens.
Going back to something we were talking about earlier, I forgot to ask you when John began to play electric guitar?
We were in Detroit. We were playing at a club called The Raven and had just played what we thought was a good show, but the audience was absolutely bored to death and not very enthusiastic. We were a little depressed. They'd already packed-up all the instruments but we said, "Well, let's get up there and play for ourselves and have some fun." John didn't have his acoustic guitar, so I said, "John, play my electric." He said, "No, I don't know how to handle one of those." But he picked up the guitar, and at first it sounded really terrible. He kept messing with the knobs and didn't know how to set 'em. We finally got into a rock-type thing. One of those 'Never Goin' Back' type grooves. All of a sudden his face lit up and he was having a ball, because he'd never felt the power of electric guitar like that.
We played for quite a while like that and he seemed real inspired, but we still continued the tour with him on acoustic. Two months later we got together for a rehearsal for another tour. I walked in the room and there he was sitting with an electric guitar. He played about half the songs on electric, it was a hollow body, but it was still electric. Then he got a Les Paul the next tour which was a louder guitar and a heavier one. At first it was so funny because he was such a quiet player. First we had to tell him to turn down because as soon as he plugged into that amp, he'd be louder than anybody in the band. He had an amp right behind him and just cranked that thing up. He still does have a problem with that.
I showed him just a few positions and he asked different people to show him, because there are different positions you use on an electric guitar than an acoustic. Plus he'd been taught very folky style, so he was very limited, that's all. That's the way anybody is, even if he's been playing a guitar for so long, the electric is a whole 'nother instrument. But he's improved tremendously now. Still uses the capo, because he plays a lot of rhythm on the electric guitar now. He's got a guitar now called the Travis Bean that he really likes. The whole neck is aluminum and has a lot of sustain, which he had problems getting.
You remember the song on ''Phoenix Concerts", the one called 'Cops'? John sent me a cassette tape which said, ''Hi, Dan, this is John. I wrote this song and I want you to figure out some other parts to complement it." He started playing and I heard on the cassette this electric guitar riff. He wrote that song when we were down in Orange County, southern California. We met this guy who was a highway patrolman, a police that was really a John Stewart fan. He said, "John, you ought to write a song about the police officer's stuff.'' He took John out in the black and white and they drove around, and that's how he got all the ideas for that song. It worked, and since he started playing electric he can write his more Chuck Berry type rock songs like 'Birtha'. Plus he can spend time jamming a lot more, which he likes to do. He likes to have fun playing, that's part of it.
Now with Linda it's pretty well arranged. There are two points in the show which are open for us to play a little while and then we'll give her the cue and go back. It's arranged like a record, almost.
Well, let's get to Linda. How did she first come to hear about you?
I'm not sure who gave her my name the first time. I got a call from Peter Asher and they were holding auditions for Linda Ronstadt, he said. They were going out on a tour down south for five weeks. I was with John, of course, but we weren't working very much. One or two gigs a month. I said, "Oh, gee, that sounds great.'' I hung up the phone and said to my wife, "I can go to an audition for Linda Ronstadt." She said, "For pedal steel?" I said, ''Well, he didn't say that, did he?" I called him back up and he said, ''No, we have a pedal steel. We're looking for a guitar player." I said, ''Oh, I thought you meant pedal steel, and I'm really more interested in playing that than guitar so I don't think I'd be interested. That was that.
She had Ed Black playing with her then. Then she went and cut "Heart Like a Wheel'' and didn't use him. He'd left the band and she'd gone through all sorts of musicians like crazy. She cut that album with Sneaky Pete playing steel, but The Flying Burrito Brothers reformed, and he didn't want to go out on the road with her because at that point she really wasn't able to pay more. Then they gave me a call again. I had met Kenny Edwards at The Ice House when I was playing with John. He liked the way I played, so he gave her my name again when they were looking for people. I went in there, auditioned, but I didn't know all the tunes. She was auditioning millions of people and she wasn't sure what to do, but because Kenny knew me she said yeah, that I would be good.
We got all set to go and then they eancelled the whole tour. I was getting a little freaked out, worrying if I'd done the right thing, but then we started doing TV shows and supplemented our incomes that way. Still feeling very insecure about how long she's gonna keep the band together, however. I knew she had used Kenny and Andrew on the records, but that is the other big point about the scariness of it. O.K. I go out with her live, but a lot of times these artists say, "I want to use all these big, heavy names on the albums.'' I went through that whole dilemma where I was sure that when it came time to cut the album she would use Sneaky Pete again. Then I had to decide that if she did I was gonna leave, because you don't just want to be with the people, you want to record on the albums, too. Live, it's neat, but your name goes by real fast. Also, an album is like a painting, it's a creation and it's there once it's done. You think, I've created something that's gonna be here after I'm long gone. I have done something and I feel I've left something.
I was in the band just a little while and she didn't 1ike the keyboard player, so Andrew rejoined. Then she got Ed Black back in the group and this was really weird. Here was another steel player, and I'd never heard of a band with two of them. She'd used Ed on stuff and he'd been with her for two or three years so I just said, ''Well, we're either gonna be the best of friends or the worst of enemies." In fact, we became the best of friends. As it worked out, he played steel on all the fast songs and I played on the slow ones. That's the way Linda liked it better, anyway. I had a feel for the ballads and he had his own little style for the fast stuff, the country rockers.
Then Ed got a little bit out of it so she let him go, but he played eleetric guitar on 'I Will Always Love You' on "Prisoner in Disguise'', and I ended up playing all the steel. Basically, on that album they cut tracks and people did overdubs, so I went in and overdubbed the pedal steel until we got the part we liked. I was real happy with being able to do that, it gave me a feeling of security, yet I still only played on five cuts out of eleven. "Prisoner" did really well and when touring ended she kept us all on retainer, which hadn't happened to me before. With John, I always had to go back and work in a bar. That was a good new experience for me. You didn't have to worry when you went off the road how you were gonna make money now. In that way she could keep a good band together and be loyal. If someone called me up and said, "Come out on the road," I would say, ''No, l'm on retainer with Linda."
And that's the differenee having a hit record makes for an artist?
Absolutely, because she had the money to do it. John Stewart didn't. He couldn't afford to say to all these guys, ''Stay with me.'' It is important, and it's a shame because that way the lesser known people can't keep the same band together which is important in your sound. It's very important to have the best musicians you can get and keep 'em. James Taylor's been able to do it with Russ Kunkel, Lee Sklar and Danny Kootch. As a matter of fact I got to do a recording session with him. They were eutting two old songs from the Apple label album to put on a James Taylor Greatest Hits album. One was 'Carolina in My Mind' and the other was 'Something in the way She Moves'. Peter went back in with Russell and Lee and Byron Berline and myself, and we re-cut those two songs with James. That was a pleasure to finally get to play with someone I've really admired. I got that through Linda and Peter.
Anyway, we just toured with Linda, went all over the United States playing big concerts. When I went out with John, like in the South, and played down in Atlanta, the places we were playing Linda had been there just before us, maybe only the week before. That is where she was at. As much as I believed in her music, and I had seen her play some big concerts because she had opened for that Neil Young tour. We were playing a lot of college eoncerts, too, nice size halls. 3000 seaters was about what she could pull. Then the album started to go. 'You're No Good' started to really hit, but we'd done every TV show you could do, which really helped. Eaeh tour got bigger and bigger, salaries got bigger, which was really nice. We toured all the way up through that year and on to February of the next, then it was time to cut the next album.
We cut "Prisoner" and that went gold and then it went platinum. It was real exciting for me, because everything I had done before had not done that. I got a gold and a platinum album myself. It's the producer's choice on who they want to give those albums to and the working band all got those. Then things got even better when we went in to do "Hasten Down the Wind''. Peter's idea was to do the tracks more live and have her there actually singing live. Rehearse the night before if it was a new song, go back the next day and get it within three or four cuts if possible, because her voice would wear out after that. It was very inspiring because normally you cut tracks and it's not as neat. This way you're playing and actually hearing Linda sing and the drums and everything all at the same time. You could feel the mood more, and you could feel where to play and where not to play.
That's how we cut this album, even though there's a certain amount of overdubbing on the tracks, and it has a good feel. After this tour I guess she's planning on starting another album in F ebruary. I have been playing with Andrew Gold. I only played on one cut on his first album, he had it almost all done by the time I got to know him. On his new album I'm playing guitar on two or three, steel on a couple. I feel real secure about Linda's career, and she seems to like the way I play. I play real consistent with her. I don't take a lot of chances or change my parts a lot. Find a nice part and keep it. That's the hard thing to find in most musicians. Consistency. That's why everybody's so happy with Mike Botts, because he's one of the most consistent drummers I've ever played with. There are very few. The drummer has more weight than anybody a lot of the time. He's got to keep things solid and the right tempos. To do that every night is hard, and every night is hard. You're gonna have your good and your bad nights. If you play at a level between 80% and 100% each night, you're alright. A lot of players have great nights and real bad nights and that's not the way to be.
Presumably, you must hope for that same consisteney from the artist you're backing ?
Oh, yeah, of course. Linda never ceases to amaze me. I can still play with her and it's such a good feeling. I hear her singing and she sings real good. I'm really not a fan of many female singers, I'm more of a group fan, but she has something that's incredible. She's very consistent singing in all sorts of situations.
How long has the current band been playing together?
Waddy Wachtel's the most recent addition. He joined when we were cutting "Hasten Down the Wind". They wanted to use him on some tracks and, I guess, this last summer tour was when he first joined and played all the big concerts. The year before that we played with the same band less Waddy. Then Brock Walsh played a lot more on Linda's show. Now Linda wanted to have Waddy because of his energy. He added that something to the band, though it was scary because it's not like replacing a member. All of a sudden you're adding a whole 'nother piece and a whole bunch more notes are gonna be happening. He is a very 'notey' player, he does play a lot of notes as opposed to myself. I have one of the slowhand guitar styles. As it worked out I don't mind, because I changed parts of mine I needed to change to make them fit. He did add a lot of energy to the group that it didn't have before.
How, as a group, do you go about working up new material?
Usually, if Linda or someone in the band finds a tune, they have a tape of whoever did it or maybe a demo. Linda listens to it and figures if she can sing it and whether she likes the words and the way it goes. Then the band gets to know the song and all the arrangements are by the band themselves. For the album we did basic tracks with her singing, so we'd have the drums, Andrew playing piano, Kenny playing bass and me on guitar; or we'd have Andrew playing guitar and me on steel, whatever it was. Then you'd work out whatever part you liked yourself. If something was wrong with it or if it was conflicting, either Linda or Peter would say something about it. Mainly it's everybody's own ideas, a group effort, which is nice. That's the difference between sitting there and having someone say, ''Play here and slide up to here." It's not as much fun then. You can't put as much of your own soul into it that way.
The song on here, 'Lo Siento Mi Vida' , all that was cut live. The three part vocals, Andrew playing bass, Kenny playing guitar, Waddy on acoustic, Russ Kunkel drumming and me playing steel. We all sat in there and did it. Really amazing, because whatever I felt the fills on steel should be as I heard them when there was a gap in the singing, I played them. It was really nice because it all happened there, it was just a one time thing. Bigger productions are done with overdubbing. Double guitar parts that Andrew does are usually all overdubs. Certain things, like on that song 'Try Me Again', the guitar parts that Andrew plays after my steel solo, Linda sang the lines to him. She said, "Play something like this." He did, and then harmonised it, so she contributed. On 'Tattler' , Kenny played mandolin, then he had all these string flying ideas he contributed. Other times it's all Andrew's idea.
Interesting about the tune 'Heatwave' on ''Prisoner''. On that song we tried taking everybody, different drummers, different guitar players, could never get it right, keep the tempo the same or do anything. What they finally did is have Andrew play a drum beat at the tempo they wanted for a certain period, then put in the fills at a certain point and stop it right there. Then they put it on a loop. Therefore, the time did not speed up or slow down, it's impeccable all the way through. You don't notice it because of all the chords and all the singing that goes on. If you sit at home and know that, you can hear the same drum part over and over again. They splice quite a lot.....well, not a lot, but sometimes you may do seven takes of a song. The first half of one is magnifieent but you lose it at the end. If the tempos are the same they can splice it in a certain part and put it together and it sounds like the whole thing was done in one take. They record at such a fast speed, thirty inches per second, the length of a note is real long so it's easier to splice without a noticeable blurp.
So each track is different, but "Hasten Down the Wind" was done more like a band than any of the others she's done. I prefer to record that way. I didn't at first, but now I do, and Peter Asher really does. Those things I did with James were done that way. It's more exciting for everybody to do it live, and there is a realness that is notieeable. You listen to Andrew's first album, which is a good record, but you can really tell he's played all the parts because all the influenees are from the same direction.
How different is it for a musieian to play live as against playing in the studio? Is it very different?
Very different. A whole 'nother concept. Some musicians are really good live and terrible in the studio, or vice versa. The whole atmosphere in the studio is very serious. It's fun, but when that tape is rolling it's a lot more serious than live. There's not the adrenalin happening or the audience energy. Most characteristic of that is Waddy Wachtel, because you see him in the studio, he sits down in a chair and plays. When he's on stage he's walking back and forth and doing his stuff all over the stage. Becomes a completely different personality. Live there's the audience energy that happens for every group, no matter who it is. If you go out there and the audience starts screaming and having a good time, all of a sudden you feel real good inside and start playing real good. In a studio you sit there and you may run through twenty takes of the same song to the point where you almost forget where you are. Also, you have to play sparcer in a lot of spots. Of course, for me a lot of times I overdub. The track is already cut, everything is already done, and they bring me in to put on a steel part. Therefore, I can take as many takes as I want and it's not going to affect anything.
I don't know if this is unfair on you, but would you care to tell me what you think of each of the other members of Linda's band? I'm sure it will all be good, but.....
Right. Let me see. Michael Botts, first of all, is my favourite drummer right now. I've played with a lot of name drummers, people who are supposed to be the tops in the business, and I respect him tremendously. He seems to be underestimated. Everyone's heard of Bread, but they don't know who the members are except for David Gates. She really does not want to lose him, I don't think anybody does, because ever since I've been with Linda the main problem with her band has been the drummer. He's got a good head on his shoulders, the best drummer Linda's ever had as far as I'm concerned.
Same with Kenny Edwards. We've tried auditioning other bass players. One time Kenny was sick, and another time he wanted to switch to guitar because he writes songs and plays guitar. But he has a feel for her music. No other bass player plays quite like he does. He's a good songwriter. He's not known, though he's trying to get things happening. He's managed by Norman Epstein who also manages Andrew and Kenny's lady, Karla Bonnof, who wrote three of the songs on Linda's album. She just signed with Columbia, so he may even be producing her album. So he's incredibly talented.
I really like Andrew, and I know he's talented, too. He has an awful lot going for him for being that young. The way he learned his music was classically on the piano, so he's very skilled. His father is Ernest Gold, who wrote the 'Theme to Exodus', so he was raised very musically. Andrew is very influenced by The Beatles, therefore he cops a lot of Beatles' type chords and lyrics, which I don't mind, except I feel he hasn't had the expanse of some of the other musicians. He's never had to scuffle as much as some of the other players.
Neither has Brock Walsh. Linda hasn't used him on the album because she likes Andrew to play keyboards. Andrew is an excellent keyboard player and very original in a lot of ways on them, especially. Brock has a lot of talent and is an excellent singer. He's young, too, though. I think they have some growing up to do. We all do, I'm just saying you grow the more experience you have, and he hasn't had a lot of road or recording experience. Yet he writes good songs.
Waddy I respect. He plays a real lot. He's from New York and he's very aggressive so he steps out there no matter what's going on whereas I hold back a lot. I'm always holding back and listening to the vocalist and what's going on, then I step out when it's solo time. Waddy's always dominant and moving around a lot. I respect him as a musician. I respect everybody in the band as a musician.
I'm really thrilled with the band, honestly, because you see groups on TV or wherever, unless they're supergroups, back-up bands are either very, very stock or they're not good at all. There's no originality in there. I think there's a lot of soul and originality in this band that was recognised by Linda. That's why she used the band on her album. It's funny, because everybody wants to be doing something else. I love doing this, and I don't want to be doing less than this. I just want more, and everybody else does. For instance, I want to be in a group where I have control and I write songs, too, and I'd like to put them on. Kenny wants to do that, too, and Andrew already has it happening for him. Still, I've really enjoyed playing with them, it's a secure band, there's no nervousness. You can actually get stagefright through being worried about the other members. Not your own capabilities, just that everything's gonna fall apart because of them. It's interesting to play with a band so long and become accustomed to it. When John Stewart called me up and said, "Come along and play these few gigs with me,'' I was standing on stage with a different bass player, a different drummer, another guitar player, and all of a sudden.....woah. Mainly because on steel guitar you have very little dynamic control. you can play loud or soft, but you can't make the band play loud or soft. If you're playing guitar you can control it, or if you're playing bass or drums you can bring the dynamics back or out louder, but on the steel guitar you can't. You have to ride on top of whatever is happening. With Linda's band there's the security you feel that if you stop playing completely, it's gonna sound good still, rather than the feeling you're pulling the weight of this. We have been together a while and the more you play together, the more you feel out each other and know what and what not to play.
With Bread maybe going out on the road again, Andrew trying to make it, I suppose it's always possible there could be a shake up. At least she would be able to afford the best.
Oh, definitely. Russ Kunkel's charging a lot of money now. She'd like to use him, and she uses him on her albums. Yet his first loyalty is to James. A lot of times James is out on the road when Linda is, plus his price is high. Then how many drummers are there you can name that can really cut the gig and are a sideman? Everybody that's really good is already in a group.
So you'll have to go stealing!
Really. That's funny, because when I left John, Linda said, "Is John gonna hate me for you joining my band ?" I said, ''No, I don't think so." She said, ''Well, tell him I'll send him a pack of protein powder and some nuts," 'cos he's a real health food freak.
I guess being with Linda has introduced you to a whole bunch of musicians you would never have met through John?
Right. By being with Linda I finally got to meet all these people who I admired before. To date, I haven't done any sessions with Eagles or Jackson Browne or whoever, but I have got to meet them. When we played The Amphitheatre, Jackson came out.....we had David Lindley go out with us one time, so I got to be very good friends with him. David is a genius. Anyway, at The Amphitheatre, for the encore Jackson came out, we had all Linda's band, plus Don Henley and John David Souther and Emmylou Harris, and we all played 'Take it Easy'. Jackson sang the lead, then we modulated into another key and had Linda take a verse, and it was so fucking exciting. At the time I was thinking, 'Here I am playing with all these great people!' It was real fun. Jackson was a really wonderful person, sincere and.....the same thing with the Eagles. I got to meet all of them. We had some co-billed dates and Glenn called me up and asked me to sit in and play steel on 'Best of My Love'. They did the song as a closer with them all playing acoustic guitars, but there's actually steel on the record. That was a thrill for me, sitting up there doing something I'd always wanted to do, playing with them at a stadium in front of 55,000 people. That's like a goal. Once you achieve it you've got to set yourself more goals.
I got that through Linda. That was something I had in mind, that was where I wanted to go. Now we all know those guys and see them when we're on the road and talk with them. You get so close to 'em, you get to know them as people, and you can't look at their music the same any more. Then there's magic, like we were in Washington, D.C., in one of those things where everybody's sitting around playing. Glenn said, "Here is a new ballad we're gonna be putting out." He sat down there with just his acoustic guitar and sang 'Lyin' Eyes'. It was the first time anybody around there had heard it, and it just gave me chills. There was so much soul. I loved the record, but it was even better than that because right there it was more magical than anything. Moments like that are real neat.
Of course, I got to meet Emmylou and her band. Then Ron Tutt would give my number to somebody and I'd get a recording session, go in, and there would be James Burton, Glen D.Hardin, Ron, all these people. So it does lead to good things. When we were playing at The Amphitheatre, we played Andrew's set, then went backstage to take a break in between sets and get a drink before doing Linda's set. Sitting in the dressing room were Mick Jagger and Ron Wood. We got so nervous. They were back in the other part of the room and Norman Epstein came out and said, ''Mick and Ron want to meet you." I went back and met them, and they were talking about how I play differently than other steel players. What they liked was I didn't play a bunch of cowboy licks, I approach it from another style, real smooth and slidey. Ron Wood even asked me to give him some steel lessons when we get back. He has been my idol on slide guitar for a long time, so it's just like a shock to your system. But they're just human beings and they're saying, "The band's fucking great,'' and I'm thinking, 'These are the Rolling Stones, I used to play their music when I was in High School!"
It's thrilling, but it's ironic in a way, too, because Roger McGuinn was one of my influences when I was into The Byrds, and there he was opening shows for us on some tours. Here's a guy I used to idolise. Now he's opening the show for a band I'm in. It kinda hurts, you know that everybody's gonna go up, but you're gonna go down, too. It's a realisation you have to be aware of in this business. Hopefully, if you can make enough money while you're up there you'll be able to live comfortably. I'm sure Linda will be cornfortable for the rest of her life whenever she decides to quit, or do as little as she wants to do.
Being with her I've got to meet these people, being with John I never did. You get heard on these albums. People read names on albums much as I used to. We were in Canada and this big guy comes up to me and asks, "Is that Linda Ronstadt's bus over there?" I'm kinda leery of people coming up like that. I said, "Well, how come?" He said, "Oh, I know her and I'd just like to say hello. My name's Byron Berline." Now this guy's a great fiddle player and I knew him from loads of albums, but I didn't know what the hell he looked like. "Oh, really," I said, "I'm pleased to meet you. My name's Dan." "Dan Dugmore?" he asks. I'm thinking, 'How on earth can he have heard of me?' It is all down to playing with Linda and being on her records.
[Issue 12 Index] [Omaha Rainbow] [Homepage]