April 26 – Duane ‘Gunn’ed To Top Of The ’50s Charts

Happy birthday to a guitarist once so popular he beat out Elvis Presley as Britain’s favorite international musician. The “Titan of Twang”, Duane Eddy, turns 84 today. His name might not be instantly recognizable, but his sound most certainly is.

Although he was born and spent his childhood in New York, his family moved to Arizona in his teen years and he quickly fit in there and found a way of incorporating the wide open spaces of the desert into his guitar-work, which was something he’d been working on since he was a pre-schooler. At 16, he bought a Gretsch guitar and the rest is history, as they say. He soon formed a duo called Jimmy & Duane in Phoenix and put out a single called “Soda Fountain Girl” in 1955. It was a minor hit in the city, and the pair became popular in the area playing country music. Around that time, Duane started to play his trademark “twangy” sound, concentrating on the lower, bass strings on his guitar (and later, at times even using a six-string bass). When he signed a record deal, the producer, Lee Hazlewood, decided it needed more echo so he bought a 2000-gallon tank for Eddy to play in to really add reverb!

The sound took off and in 1958 he had his first real hit, “Rebel Rouser” which hit #6 in the U.S. and earned him a gold single. He’d go on to have a dozen top 30 hits by 1963 including “Because They’re Young” and “Dance With the Guitar Man.” He was even more popular across the ocean, with 18 top 30s there by the mid-’60s. So well-known and loved was he there that in 1960, the NME named him the favorite international musician, ahead of Elvis. As the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would say, some 30 years later when he was inducted, “twang came to represent a walk on the wild side…the sound of revved-up hot rods made for rebels with or without a cause.”

Eddy’s now best-known for his take on a somewhat obscure TV show’s theme. Peter Gunn was a bete-noire type detective show around the end of the ’50s. Henry Mancini composed the theme for it, recalling it “derives more from rock and roll than jazz” and using a tense piano and guitar in unison sound to make it “sinister.” Eddy put his guitar sound to it and made it into a British top 10 hit… twice. First in 1959, then later with the band Art of Noise who redid it in 1986.

The Beatles of course changed the sound of pop dramatically around 1963, which coincided with when Duane’s hot streak petered out. He turned to acting for much of the rest of the decade, and in the ’70s produced some country records, and showed up here and there on other records, like B.J. Thomas’ “Rock & Roll Lullaby” which he played guitar on. Still, in those few short years he racked up quite a string of hits and influenced a whole generation of young guitarists including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Mark Knopfler and even George Harrison. No wonder he was an early entrant into the Rock Hall… and only the second winner of Guitar Player‘s “Guitar Legend” designation. The first was Les Paul, putting Eddy in pretty good company. And like Paul, there is a guitar named for Duane… the Gretsch “Duane Eddy” 6120DE.

Eddy was still touring as recently as 2018, when he had an 80th birthday tour!

April 11 – Geils Drove His Namesake Band To The Winner’s Circle

Remembering a musician whose name is a household one, even if his music isn’t as much. John Geils Jr., or “J. Geils” died on this day in 2017 from natural causes at his home in Massachusetts. He was 71.

Geils is of course best known for the J. Geils Band, one of the States’ hardest-working rock bands of the ’70s who hit paydirt in the early-80s with the multi-million selling Freeze Frame and its #1 single, “Centerfold.” It pretty much put the icing on a sonic cake that included six gold or platinum albums and 10 top 40 singles at home between 1970 and ’84. By the time the band called it quits, it had become a radio-friendly pop rock outfit, quite different than its early roots as a bluesy rock’n’roll group more akin to early ZZ Top or Rolling Stones. We can hear the difference listening to their first hit single, “Lookin’ for a Love” In fact, when Geils started the group at college in 1967, it was called the J. Geils Blues Band. As the years went by, the group seemed to be more and more the work of the core duo of keyboardist Seth Justman and singer Peter Wolf, who wrote most of the original material. Geils however, was always an essential part of the band’s sound, being its only guitarist through the years, until he quit a re-formed version of them in 2012, suing the rest for what he felt was improper use of the band’s name.

After Peter Wolf’s initial departure from the band and its quick descent, commercially, Geils kept busy with other musical projects and cars. As a kid he was a fan of old jazz, blues and soul artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman and after the rock success of “Centerfold” he put out a number of jazz albums as “Jay Geils” with a jazz trio in the 1990s. He was also passionate about car racing, especially European versions and drove regularly in a number of races, fixing vintage sports cars in his own shop in his downtime.

March 9 – Big Talent, Little Notice Seems Trower’s Power

Today we wish a happy birthday to one of classic rock’s best-known names…yet least-known musicians! Paradox Robin Trower turns 77 today…just in time to ready his 26th solo album, due next month. As Louder Sound ask, “he played guitar for Procol Harum, supported the Beatles and Rolling Stones, then sold out stadiums as a solo artist…so why did he never become a household name?”

The answer, likely “no hit singles.” Being nicknamed “Fish Face” might not help. Plus, while his talent is undeniable, he has been widely seen as a copycat, first of Eric Clapton, later of Jimi Hendrix. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.

Trower grew up in Essex, England and soon developed a love of early rock’n’roll. He was a fan of Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley as a teen (he’s said it was seeing Elvis with a guitar was what made him decide to play), but more recently told the Houston Chronicle James Brown’s Live at the Apollo and B.B. King’s Live At The Regal were actually his two most influential records when young. Especially the James Brown. “I always thought rock’n’roll was more R&B influenced (than by the blues or country)” he admits.

While still in high school he formed a band called the Paramounts, with B,J. Wilson and Gary Brooker, among others. They had minor success in Britain, but notably opened for the Rolling Stones and Beatles early on in those bands careers. The Beatles ? “They weren’t that good live, but they were nice guys,” Trower says.

After about four years, the Paramounts broke up and Wilson and Brooker formed Procol Harum. Trower and his guitar, at the time a Les Paul, started a band called The Jam…not the same one as the late-’70s “Going Underground” one, mind you. His The Jam didn’t do much, but Procol Harum hit a home run right off the bat with “Whiter Shade of Pale”, one of the biggest hits of all-time in the UK. But their first guitarist quit and they added Trower in as they were becoming a name. He played on their first five albums, but left just before they’d hit paydirt for a second time with the live recording of “Conquistador.” Thus he was a member of a well-known, big-selling band for about five years but the closest thing he scored to a hit with them was “Homburg”, which squeaked into the top 20 in their homeland.

He left because Procol Harum was somewhat more geared toward keyboards than lots of guitars, but mainly because his writing was limited by them. So he switched to a Fender Stratocaster (still his guitar of choice) after playing one while hanging out with Jethro Tull, and started a blues-rock trio, the Robin Trower Band. Since then he’s put out albums about every other year, sometimes as that, sometimes under his own name. He did have a run of four gold albums in the U.S. in the ’70s, starting with the critically-acclaimed Bridge of Sighs (which hit the top 10 in both the U.S. and Canada) and was popular as a concert draw, but as mentioned, failed to become widely known in say, a Peter Frampton way. In his homeland, the most successful album he’s been a part of since Procol Harum was Bryan Ferry’s Taxi, which he played guitar on and produced, scoring a gold disc and two hit singles.

For all that, he has his share of fans and respect. While Rolling Stone omitted him from their list of the top 100 guitarists, Louder Sound put him at #46 and call him the “Guitarist who should be King!”. They praise his “heavy brick wall power chords and fluid, bluesy, highly melodic lead parts.”

His new album, No More Worlds To Conquer should be out in about six weeks, and might well be accompanied by a small tour. He says “I still love it” (playing concerts) but “not like the big tours where there’s a bus, hotel, a gig. I gave that up a long time ago. That’s not a life.” But neither is retiring. He said three years ago “I’m much nearer the end than the beginning. If I want to get where I want to be, I have to work a lot harder.” Someone once said if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. Robin Trower is a shining example of that.

February 27 – Schon’s Long Journey Far From Over

When you say “Journey”, the first name who comes to mind is usually Steve Perry, their distinctive voice for hits like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”. But today we tip the cap to the man who probably is the most integral piece of the band puzzle – Neal Schon. The guitarist who’s the only permanent member of the band through its nearly 50 year run (to date) turns 68 today.

Schon was born into a musical Oklahoman family. While his dad was a military man, he was also a big band leader and composer and his mother a singer. He learned to play sax when young and began playing a little guitar at age 5. He taught himself to play by ear, emulating the likes of Buddy Guy, Albert King and Eric Clapton’s Cream music. He was playing guitar in his dad’s band before he became a teenager, and by age 17 he’d moved to the west coast and joined a red-hot band with one of the greatest guitarists around, Santana. Neal picked up a trick or two with the Les Paul – his preferred guitar – from Carlos, who he cites as one of his biggest influences when it comes to his adult playing (Eric Clapton and B.B. King being two others.) He was with them for two albums and about two years before he and keyboardist Gregg Rolie quit to begin their own band – Journey.

In the early days, Neal at times sang a few of the band’s tunes, like “Karma” and “Look into the Future”, but it soon became clear to him and the label that neither he nor Gregg had quite the dynamic voice needed to drive the songs home. They brought in Steve Perry and the fortunes soared; Schon calls Perry his all-time favorite male singer, while Aretha franklin is his favorite female voice. Through the years he’s co-written a number of their hits including “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” but his main role has always been to lay down the foundation to the music with his guitar. Guitar work that’s been solid but not as recognized as the work of some of his classic rock contemporaries, perhaps unfairly. Pop Dose rank him as the 19th greatest guitarist ever, right behind his old mentor, Carlos Santana.

Neal says he loved being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey but “to me, the most important thing is my fans – they’re my hall of fame. I have boxes of platinum and gold records. They’re all in my attic.” He has boxes of guitars as well; last year he auctioned off 115 of his own guitars including the 1977 Les Paul deluxe he used to compose “Don’t Stop Believin'”. But don’t worry about him… he still has close to 700 guitars to choose from. He said he had a warehouse full of them and brought 350 home to look at. “There was no room to walk around! It was nuts!”  His love of the stage and fans (and guitars to collect) has left him little spare time. When not with Journey, he’s put out nine solo records and done session work with the likes of Joe Cocker and the Allman Brothers as well as being part of Bad English (which also has Jonathan Cain from Journey in its lineup.)

Oddly, for all the success he’s had with one of America’s favorite rock bands, he perhaps has gotten the most publicity for … his wife. In 2013 he married his on-again, off-again girlfriend of twenty or so years, Michaele Salahi who was famous for being one of the Real Housewives reality TV shows. Fittingly for a reality TV celebrity, the couple tied the knot in a pay-per-view TV show! Mind you, it wasn’t as ridiculous or selfish as it sounded. Viewers got treated to concerts by both Journey and Tower of Power and Schon played an instrumental he’d written for his wife. And while the couple probably got a nice little wedding gift from the royalties, they also donated some of the money to Philippine typhoon victims, a cause close to the band since Steve Perry’s replacement, Arnel Pineda was born there.

If you’ve been wanting to see Journey play their hits live but haven’t yet, don’t stop believin’ that you can. They’re touring extensively again this year, playing Newark tonight, and have announced a new album is being readied for release this spring. The first single off it, “The Way We Used To Be” came out recently.

January 7 – Space Age Guitars Took Awhile To Fly Off Shelves

Rock began to look cooler on this day in 1958, even if it didn’t sound any different. But Gibson made a visual statement 64 years back when it patented its Flying V Guitar.

Gibson by then was a well-established and well-loved brand of guitars. It was begun by Orville Gibson, in Kalamazoo, Michigan around 1902 after he’d patented a style of mandolin at the end of the 1800s. The Gibson Mandolin & Guitar Manufacturing Co. quickly became popular, initially more for mandolins than guitars, but by 1936 they’d expanded their range to make one of the first-ever electric guitars, the ES150. Although they primarily were diverted into making military parts during World War II, they still managed to hire on some women to turn out 25 000 guitars during that period, albeit apparently surruptitiously. In the early-’50s, they collaborated with guitar legend Les Paul to make the line of guitars bearing his name which remain popular to this day.

In 1958, they found upstart competitor Fender was starting to command a significant portion of the guitar market, so they decided to try something new. They decided to make some space-age looking guitars for the world thrilled by all-things spacey and futuristic. Chief among them was the Flying V (there were also a couple of asymmetrical versions, the Moderna and Futura which never caught on fully.) With its sharp angles it looked radically different, although it was designed to closely approximate the sound of the popular Les Paul. Originally they made them out of limba, an African wood that looks and feels like mahogany but is much lighter… models made with mahogany were found to be rather cumbersome. Later they’d change to more conventional woods but keep the look and characteristics of the original, limba Flying Vs… which if you happen to find in your attic, you could probably sell for over $200 000. Although much like other, regular-looking electrics, they have their diehard fans. One characteristic of the Flying V’s is a propensity for a lot of sustain, apparently due to the pickup right over the center-of-balance on the six-string.

Although initially too odd-looking to catch on, in the early-’60s Blues rocker Albert King and early rocker Lonnie Mack started using them and sales nudged upwards. In 1965 they got a big boost when Dave Davies of the Kinks did a TV performance using one. Turns out that he had bought it at the last minute when his regular guitar was lost in the airport; a Flying V seemed his only option! (Remarkably, that’s a similar story to how Peter Buck of R.E.M. ended up using a Rickenbacker so much early on; his regular guitar was broken and all he could find immediately before one show was a used Rickenbacker.) Soon Keith Richards tried one out, then Jimi Hendrix took a liking to them and had a few left-handed ones made for him. Their star power continued into the ’70s with Marc Bolan of T-Rex Kiss’s Paul Stanley and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons being high-profile users. Nancy Wilson of Heart became one of the few female stars to take to them. More recently, Lenny Kravitz has been a fan of them, but mostly they’ve become synonymous with heavy metal and thrash, with people like James Hetfield of Metallica, Bob Mould of Husker Du, and KK Downing of Judas Priest letting fly on the “V”.

Gibson has long-since moved to Nashville and are currently the second-biggest guitar brand in the U.S., behind Fender. They manufacture new Flying V’s periodically.

December 13 – Baxter Sure Doesn’t Stink As Guitarist

This doesn’t stink. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter turns 73 today – happy birthday to him!.

Jeff was born in Washington, DC, and works there at times today – more on that in a bit – and is something of a guitar legend. He became very good as a guitarist as a teen, met a very young Jimi Hendrix and played in a band with him in the ’60s… albeit as a bassist. Apparently the band had a pretty good guitarist without Skunk! He’d later go on to be a part of two of California’s biggest bands of the ’70s – Steely Dan, then the Doobie Brothers. After leaving the latter around the end of the decade, he’s kept busy in music, producing albums for Nazareth and  continuing to add his guitar licks to other artists records, as he did when he could find the time with the other two bands. Baxter’s shown up on records from everyone from Rod Stewart to John Mellencamp to Joni Mitchell.

But he’s not all about music. The guy studied journalism at Boston University and knows a thing or two about technology as well. These days you might find him back in DC… advising Congress on matters of national defense. Seriously. He’s a weapons analyst of some sort on a Congressional committee, and says “my big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music (and) happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at!”

Journalists and terrorists alike seem unable to crack the mystery of his nickname though and he’s coyly suggested he’ll not comment on “Skunk” until he writes a bio. The LA Times once reported it was because a one time bandmate walked in on him in the bathroom and didn’t like the smell, but who knows? We do know he played guitar on Steely Dan’s first hit, “Do It Again”. After leaving them in 1974, he soon landed in the Doobie Brothers, playing both regular and steel guitars on hits like “Takin’ It To The Streets” and “What A Fool Believes.” He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with them in 2020.

October 16 – Bob The Hard-Working Hippie?

Hippies and strong work ethics aren’t always synonymous, but they could be if there were more people like the guitarist turning 74 today. Happy birthday, Bob Weir!

Weir is best-known for being the rhythm guitarist for the ultimate ’60s Hippie band, the Grateful Dead, but he never has been one to limit himself or his love of music. Even during the band’s close-to-30 year run, he was never one to let grass grow underneath his feet, putting out a solo record and working on various collaborations along the way, a process which has only accelerated since the death of the Dead frontman, Jerry Garcia.

Weir and Garcia met on New Year’s Eve, 1963, and played music all night long, according to the legend. They formed a bluegrass jug band, but switched to more rock offerings after seeing The Beatles on TV. “What we saw them doing was impossibly attractive. I couldn’t think of anything else more worth doing,” he recalls. So was born the Grateful Dead.

Weir’s willingness to work paid off handsomely, as he was at first considered a rather sloppy and second-rate guitarist, but by 1970 he’d improved into one of the better ones in the California circuit and was tackling slide guitar as well. He even took over the mic from Jerry on some of the band’s best-loved tracks like “Truckin’”. In the odd months they weren’t touring for their devoted Deadheads, Weir was busy with side projects like Kingfish, Bobby & the Midnites and Ratdog, which still performs at times, mixing in Dead covers with their own material.

After Garcia’s death prompted dissolution of the band, Weir’s kept busy, at times performing with the other surviving members simply as “The Dead” , other times with bassist Phil Lesh as, simply enough, Bobby & Phil. More recently he’s toured with Don Was (producer and leader of ’80s band Was Not Was) in an act called Bob Weir and Wolf Bros. He’s toured with John Mayer and the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and played for President Obama at the White House… what a long strange trip from the flower power days of 1967 San Francisco! Filmmakers thought so as well – in 2014, he was the subject of a documentary entitled The Other One – The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir.

More recently, he’s performed with The National and won the first-ever Les Paul Spirit Award, with its director stating “not only is he an extraordinary talent who has given us an amazing array of legendary music, but he is an innovator who understands music (and) technologies.”

September 14 – Ed Introduced Cali Psychedelia To Southern Rednecks

Today we remember Ed King, a guitarist with an interesting resume : two decades, two regions, two styles, one talent. King was a primary member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and was born on this day in 1949 near L.A.

King got into playing guitars young and was a founding member of the psychedelic Strawberry Alarm Clock, a band who hit the bigtime briefly with “Incense and Peppermints”, a song which King co-composed as a teen. However, they had all sorts of internal strife and changes in lineup and couldn’t sustain their popularity (even though they still are going today with some original members. But for awhile they were indeed big, and while touring at the height of their popularity, they had a Southern Rock band opening for them – The One Percent. They seemed quite talented to King so he spoke to the apparent leader of that group, Ronnie Van Zant and said he’d join their band if they wanted. Van Zant declined…at first.

Fast forward to 1972, and King got a call from Van Zant. A bassist had just quit the band, which now was called Lynyrd Skynyrd. Did King want to join? The Strawberry Alarm Clock was on hiatus and seemed washed up by then, so Ed wasted no time flying east. Initially they brought him in to play bass, which he does quite well, but after the departed member returned they decided he could shine better on regular guitar, even though they already had a couple of six-stringers. Soon they were in the studio and their great run began with their “Three Guitar Army.” Although he played bass on one of their Classic Rock Anthems, “Free Bird”, they soon shifted his workload more to the guitars. Not only was he a standout guitarist, he also wrote a fair bit of the music for their best-loved tunes including “Saturday Night Special” and notably, “Sweet Home Alabama.” King opens that song with his guitar work, Former member Artimus Pyle said of that “his kickoff to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is possibly the most recognized opening riff ever.”

Music knows no boundaries, but it was obvious within and without that when it came to Skynyrd members, “one of these things is not like the other.” The band was basically Florida lads, who called Alabama home. They were “rednecks”, and loved to party and brawl. In fact, as far removed from British punk as they were, their rough-and-ready to rumble attitude would have fit in just fine hanging with the Clash and Stranglers back then. Ed, on the other hand described himself as “a California hippie.” Although they liked King (Pyle would later refer to him as “a very generous man, always willing to spend time with (a) fellow guitarist”) he and Van Zant didn’t always see eye to eye. King said “I was just there to play music. I wasn’t there to get beaten up, get spit on, get dragged around a room…” so almost inevitably he ended up quitting the band, mid-tour in 1975, just as their fortunes were beginning to soar. He’d later say “I was out of my mind for quitting… it was also the best thing I ever did.”

King would re-join a reunited Skynyrd in ’87 and play with them on and off again for a decade, returning to the studio for a trio of new albums including ’93’s The Last Rebel. Sadly he had a number of health issues later on in life, including a heart transplant in 2011, and he died of cancer in 2018. Fellow Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington said then “Ed was a brother and a great songwriter and guitar player. I know he will be reunited with the rest of the boys in that Rock’n’Roll Heaven.”

August 8 – Evans Gives U2 Music The Edge

Happy birthday, Dave Evans. He turns 60 today and has been making great music for one of the world’s most popular bands for over two-thirds of those years. The band, of course, is U2 and we know Dave a bit better as guitarist The Edge.

Despite being in the most popular Irish band ever, The Edge actually is Welsh…and was born in Essex, England. His family (including brother Dik who was in the very first lineup of the band, back when they were known as The Hype) moved to Eire in the early-’60s. One of several surprises about the toqued-one. For instance, he has a nice home near Malibu, California and he donated 100 acres of land for a public park there. On stage and in the studio, he can play bass, quite well, and does so on their song “40” on record and in most concerts as well. Keyboards too. The piano on “New Year’s Day”? The Edge. Bono’s even rested his voice and let The Edge sing a time or two, as on “Van Diemen’s Land.” Or how about the fact that in 2016 The Edge was able to be the first rock performer ever to give a show inside the Sistine Chapel? That’s some kind of clout and respect.

And why not? U2 has been one of rock’s most respected, most enduring and most commercially successful bands for decades, and nothing defines them more than the guitar core to their sound created by him. Accolades have been showered on The Edge for years, and a listen to a record or two of theirs will easily let you hear why. As producer Daniel Lanois says, “there’s not a lot of strumming in his playing. He’s very much a servant to the melody.”

Udiscover Music rank him among the 50 Greatest Guitarists of all-time, saying “thanks to his canny use of delay and effects, the Edge had a signature sound and his adventurous spirit has never flagged.” Rolling Stone concur, ranking him 38th best ever on the six-string, suggesting “his secret is he taught himself to play. That’s why he’s so unique.” Or as Guitar World put it, “armed with a Gibson Explorer and a Memory Man Echo Unit, the guitarist lashed out at parochial attitudes about what rock should sound like.” And keeps doing.

After awhile, great songs won’t do. They have to be the best,” he once said. “Success doesn’t make it any easier. Each time I start a new record, it’s a brand new search.” He told Guitar World why they don’t constantly churn out new songs that sound like “New Year’s Day” or “I Will Follow”. “I’ll do anything to avoid being cliché…it’s our sound and we can break it if we want. All it takes is a lot of arguing.”

Not that it necessarily means fans should look forward to much more of the electronic-influenced, experimental sounds of the mid-’90s and songs like “Lemon.” “We pushed that (irony and experimentation) as far as it could go with ‘PopMart’,” he told the journal.

So happy birthday Dave. Let’s hope someone gets him a nice new toque. According to the band, he “went bald very young and has worn a hat in all publicity shots since the mid-80s.” A signature piece of garb for a man who’s given post-punk rock a signature sound.

May 24 – L.A.’s Sideman Without Peer

We’ve frequently talked about the “Wrecking Crew” here before, an elite informal group of L.A.-based session musicians like Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine who were incredibly talented and incredibly in demand in the ’60s. A list of their credits might make one think they played on half of all the American hits of that decade. They weren’t as much utilized in the ’70s, but there still were some great, popular studio musicians in the City of Angels that formed a sort of second generation Wrecking Crew who made many of the hits of the ’70s and ’80s happen. Guys like guitarist Danny Kortchmar, drummer Russ Kunkel and today’s birthday boy – Waddy Wachtel. We wish the talented guitarist/producer a happy 74th today.

Waddell Wachtel was born in New York City and learned guitar by age nine. Impressive, especially considering he’s left-handed but learned to play the conventional, right-handed way. By his high school years he was beginning to write songs and started his first band, which eventually became popular as a bar band in the city and Connecticut in the mid-’60s. But his big break came when he moved to the West Coast in 1968, soon finding some work doing a bit of session playing for the Cowsills. From there he met the incredibly talented and successful burgeoning crowd of L.A. soft rock stars in the making. “I have been very lucky,” he told the L.A. Times recently. “It’s been an incredible ride. Los Angeles was such an open, creative place then. It was an amazing time to be here. I was playing with Linda Ronstadt, then James Taylor. I met Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham…”

And playing on their records. Indeed, his idea of playing guitar as “a counter-point – providing something to catch your ear within the song when the singing leaves off,” won him big fans among his friends. He played on the Buckingham Nicks album that led to them getting recruited by Fleetwood Mac, then added a few licks to that band’s 1975 breakthrough. No doubt through them he met their one-time roommate, Warren Zevon, and helped him write his smash hit “Werewolves of London” and playing on his Excitable Boy album. Around the same time he began working with Jackson Browne periodically (with Jackson it was a family affair – Waddy’s brother Jimmy designed several of Browne’s album covers) and Linda Ronstadt regularly, being her guitarist of choice on albums like Hasten Down the Wind, Simple Dreams and Living in the USA. His heavy workload continued into the ’80s, playing on Stevie Nicks first couple of solo records, including songs like “Leather and Lace” and “Stand Back”, playing on Steve Perry’s solo hit “Oh Sherrie” and joining a side-project band of Keith Richards, The X-spensive Winos. And when Australian new wavers The Church came to town, Waddy got the call to co-produce Starfish, the album that made them a hit on this side of the Pacific. In the past decade when Taylor Swift played the Grammys and Stevie Nicks got inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it was Waddy behind them with that old Gibson. Add in credits on guitar and writing with artists as varied as Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Feargal Sharkey and Colin James and you begin to get the idea – Waddy’s one of rock’s most important “invisible men.” Or as his hometown newspaper dubs him, “a sideman without peer.”

These days Wachtel still does some session work and from time to time appears in a rather impromptu club band called The Immediate Family, usually with fellow session stars Kunkel and Kortchmar. Likely playing an old guitar. He once said a 1964 Fender Stratocaster was the newest instrument he owned! But if you want to try to duplicate his sound, Gibson would be happy to help you. They offer a Waddy Wachtel model based on an old one Steven Stills once gave him.