bottleneck guitar. With Bruce and Steven
playing electric, and Patti (Scialfa, Bruce’s
wife) and Soozie (Tyrell, violin and acoustic
guitar) playing acoustic, we don’t always
need five guitar players, so I started playing everything else. I have some beautiful
Carter pedal steel guitars, and some terrific
resonator guitars. A friend of mine sent me
a couple of great old lap steels. He has a
huge collection of them.
How did you get the Springsteen gig?
I followed Bruce on the same circuit of
clubs, concert halls and recording studios
over the years and we established a friendship. It was a great honor for me to join
that band. I think that Bruce is the greatest bandleader in rock ‘n’ roll history. He’s
a pleasure to work with. He knows how to
prepare you so you can go out and play with
passion and commitment. The E Street gig is
a highly improvisational thing, and Bruce lets
you create freely in that environment.
What made you pick up a guitar in the
first place? Was it seeing The Beatles on
The Ed Sullivan Show?
Yes, it was.
I knew it. How did you progress from there?
I had ten years of classical piano and accordion training from the age of six, so I had a
musical background, and never would have
become a rock guitarist if it weren’t for that
training. I picked up an old acoustic guitar
we had around the house, and my brother
Tom, who was a member of Grin, taught me
my first chords. It was The Beatles’ songs,
their arrangements, and the way they put
their songs across that opened Pandora’s
box for me. I discovered blues, Tamla/
Motown, Stax/Volt R&B, British Invasion,
folk, country, and so much more, listening
to The Stones and Beatles.
Who were your guitar influences?
Well, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, of course.
I followed the Jeff Beck Group throughout
their US tour for the Truth album. I still think
Jeff’s the greatest living guitarist. I liked Roy
Buchanan early on and got to know him. I
also liked Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Pete
Townshend, Muddy Waters, and B.B. and
Albert King. Grin did a gig once with Moby
Grape, and their lead guitarist, Jerry Miller,
was a monster player. He was using Marshall
amps and a big, old Gibson hollowbody jazz
guitar. I liked Stevie Ray Vaughan too. All
those guitarists were the “soup” that helped
me form my style.
Grin recorded several albums and had
some success, and then you embarked on a
solo career in the seventies. You’ve always
managed to balance your solo career with
that of a sideman. How do you do it?
When the E Street Band plays, I’m there,
and when they’re not, I do my solo thing.
It’s not hard. I have a great website that’s
managed for me, and complete freedom