Snowy White has relied on this beautifully battered 1957 goldtop Les Paul
since he was 18 years old. Photo by Sean Evans
Sometime in the mid ’70s, Roger Waters, the leader of the pro- gressive rock band Pink Floyd, began to feel a wall develop- ing between the group and its stadium audiences—who were
increasingly rowdy and beer-swilling, and seemingly indifferent to the
music. This sense of alienation served as the inspiration for Floyd’s epic
1979 double album, The Wall—a rock opera that also addressed some
of the other difficult personalities in Waters’ life, including abusive
schoolteachers (“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”) and an overprotec-tive parent (“Mother”), among others.
Despite its derisive tone, The Wall earned Pink Floyd even larger audiences.
A decade after the album was released, more than a quarter of a million
fans saw a live concert of the album in its entirety in Germany as Waters
and guests like Cyndi Lauper, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell celebrated
the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, 20 years after that historic concert, and
30 years after the album was released, Waters has embarked on an
ambitious worldwide tour: The Wall Live is playing before packed houses
from Toronto to Manchester, England, until June 2011. The mammoth tour
features some killer guitarists: former Saturday Night Live mainstay G.E.
Smith, Dave Kilminster (known for his work with legendary keyboardist Keith
Emerson), and Snowy White, a British instrumentalist steeped in the blues.
White, now 62, got his start as a professional guitarist in early 1970s
London. Thanks to his tasteful playing—and to being an affable bloke
in general—he made a name for himself on the UK scene without great
difficulty. White’s first big gig was a stint as an auxiliary live guitarist for
Pink Floyd in the late 1970s, followed in the early ’80s by a slot in the
rock band Thin Lizzy.
Since then, White, a consummate pro, has had an enviable career.
As a solo artist, he scored a major hit with the 1984 single “Bird of
Paradise” from the album White Flames, which is also the name of
the band he’s long fronted. At the same time, White has regrouped
periodically with Waters for the 1990 Berlin performance of The
Wall and for Waters’ 2000 In the Flesh tour, among other occasions.
Meanwhile, the Snowy White Blues Project finds White in a more
straightforward bluesman mode. “I’m lucky, really—I’ve got both
worlds here,” he says.
We met up with White in the lobby of a swanky hotel in Manhattan’s
SoHo district—which is, appropriately enough, a neighborhood rife
with guitar history—to talk about everything from the Wall tour to his