I also like playing Jazzmasters onstage with
Bruce. When I mix the Jazzmaster with
Bruce’s Telecasters or Broadcasters, and
Steve Van Zandt’s Strats, it sounds very
sympathetic with their guitars. With the
Jazzmasters, I use D’Addario 13–56 gauge
strings, which are very heavy. That gauge
doesn’t “splat,” if you know what I mean.
With all the adrenaline pumping onstage,
the Jazzmaster, with those strings and the
thumb pick, work great.
I noticed you used a thumb pick exclusively.
I’m left-handed, and when I started to play
guitar, I found a thumb pick in the case of
my dad’s guitar. After about eight or nine
months, some of my guitar-playing friends
told me I was doing it all wrong… I should
use a flat pick, but it didn’t work for me.
Any Gibsons or other electrics?
I have a real nice ’ 52 Goldtop Les Paul that
I played when I did the Trans Tour with Neil
Young years ago. It was a nice combination
with his “Old Black” Les Paul. I also have an
Epiphone Les Paul I used when I did the tours
with Ringo Starr & The All-Starr Band. Now, I
just use those guitars in the studio.
How about amps?
Back in the old days, I used blackface
Fender Super Reverbs with four 10"
speakers. I eventually moved on to Hot
Rod DeVilles for my electric gigs, then to
Fender Vibro Kings with three 10" speakers.
Lately with Bruce, I’ve been using two Twin
Reverbs onstage to hold my low-end effects,
and they’re working out real well.
Why do you like Fenders amps?
When you turn a Fender up to about 7 or 8,
you get a very comforting, warm saturation
that I really like, without the fuzziness. It’s
very natural and doesn’t take away the metal
from the strings. With the thumb picks I use,
they give me a very percussive sound that
enhances the warmth. There’s no harshness. I
don’t like amps that sound brittle or harsh.
Do you endorse any products?
My endorsements are limited. I have deals
with Fender, D’Addario for strings, and
Takamine acoustic guitars. All of those
companies are very helpful, and none of
them insist on exclusivity, which I appreciate.
How about effects?
On tour, I use a large rack of effects that’s
run by my tech, Roy Witte, who’s been with
me for about eight years. We have a POG,
a Poly Octave Generator built by Electro-Harmonix; two Barber Burn Unit Overdrives;
a Line 6 Delay, the green one with the
backwards sounds; a couple of Boss Octave
pedals and a Boss Delay. I really like having
my effects at my feet, but it’s been getting
more and more complicated since the last
tour with this big rack unit. Roy has programmed three or four rack pedals to kick
in with one stage pedal setting.
Years ago, when I worked for the Guild
Guitar Company in Elizabeth, NJ, you
called one day looking for an old, extinct
Guild effects box that we no longer
made. What was that?
It was called the Rotoverb. It was a Leslie
simulator that Guild used to sell back in the
late sixties. I always liked them and was trying
to find a couple more that I thought you guys
might have lying around.
How do you integrate yourself into the
sound of the E Street Band with both Bruce
and Steven playing electric?
I’ve become the “swingman” in the band, by
playing lap steel, pedal steel, Dobro and