Rick talks about Dumbles , Bob Seger , and Peter Greens Les Paul.
Interview : Rick Vito
MGS - Welcome Rick Vito to musicgearsource. Thanks so much for taking
the time to chat with us Ri ck.
RV- Thanks, it's my pleasure.
MGS - Looking at your bio it seems you have played with a ton of great
bands and musicians. Can you name the top 3 favorite gigs and why?
RV - I think I liked most of them on some level, but I've had some of the best nights of playing my own music with my current touring band, which has Rick Reed on drums, and Charlie Harrison on bass. I work mostly in Europe right now where I have an appreciative and growing fan base. Fleetwood Mac was probably the best, most complete professional experience I ever had. I was not a sideman there, but a member of the band. When I joined I received overnight recognition, made a great living, and got to travel all over the world with one of the greatest bands in history. In retrospect now, it all seems like a dream. Third would probably be a tie between John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Bob Seger, and Jackson Browne. All three involved significant contributions to the creation of a new recording followed by major tours. I have kept in touch with all three guys.
MGS - It had to be pretty surreal to be up onstage with the Mac in a
spot Peter Green used to occupy. That had to be a blast.
RV -Yes it was, because I had seen the band with Peter in late 1968 in Philly, and it was a turning point for me musically, in that Peter was completely inspiring to me. When I took over as lead guitarist in 1987, I was able to resurrect a few old Mac tunes from the Green/blues era in the show. The fans loved that, and it gave a well-rounded circumspective of Fleetwood Mac as a band which had gone through many stages of evolution, from a blues band all down through the pop stages.
MGS - Quite a few of your songs have appeared on national TV shows. How
does one break into that kind of work? I am assuming its the old "Its
all in who you know "
RV -I met a fellow in L.A. who is in the business of pitching songs to TV shows. I'm his official "blues guy," and he has been able to land some good spots for my songs which benefits both of us. So yes, it's a case of knowing someone who is connected. A lucky thing for me.
MGS - What are you focusing on these days career wise?
RV -I have a new finished CD, "Rattlesnake Shake," and coincidentally, it's the Peter Green song as the title track. I am currently offering it on rickvito.com only for those who keep in close touch with what I'm doing. I think I have a deal in place with a new company that will "officially" release it early in 2006. I also just completed a deal with the Hal Leonard Corporation to release my new "Slide Guitar with Rick Vito" instructional DVD. I'd like to try more slide guitar seminars along with more live band work next year. There will also be a new CD release in Europe only in spring 2006 that I'm working on now. So, I've been fairly busy.
MGS - What were a few players that were major influences for you growing
RV -A big standout for me was Keith Richards on all the early Stones records. Learning from him gave me a sense of direction during the tenuous teen years. The weird thing was, as I was doing my first pro session in L.A. in 1971, who walks in but Keith Richards! The first thing he said during playback was, "Who's the guitar player?" Talk about being in heaven! I already mentioned Peter Green who was just terrific. He and Jimi were to this day the best live blues-rock guitarists I've ever seen. Mike Bloomfield was great too. From there guys I also learned about the first generation blues and swing players, Django, slide guitar, and so many things that had to do with the philosophy of one's playing.
MGS - We love to talk gear. Can you first give us a detailed overview of
your effects used live and in the studio?
RV -Well, nothing out of the ordinary stands out. I just use varying degrees of echo, reverb, compression when needed, and sometimes some tremelo and overdrive from the amps. No big deal. It's more about the right sounds for the song and the emotional impact of what you play to align with that.
MGS - I read somewhere you own a Dumble amp. For those of us that just
see them on ebay and buy pedals to emulate them, what makes them
different? Can you give us the history on yours, model, etc.?
RV -Well I have had a couple but I don't have one currently. I found that over ten years went by without my using it. I kept finding just as useful a sound with something else. I think a lot of the Dumble lore is a little hyped up by one thing or another. My main Dumble amp was really great, but I don't really think it was necessarily greater than my '59 Bassman, my '64 Deluxe Reverb, or Supro, or Reverend for that matter. I had some great success with a Dumble, but I'd choose the mind and fingers as more important tools to achieve one's sound. There are many great amps out there today that will help you get where you need to go.
MGS - Your signature guitar offered by Reverend guitars looks very cool. Can you tell us how this came
RV -Thank you. Sure, it came about as a result of Joe Naylor suggesting that we do a guitar with a sort of "voodoo blues" vibe based on images I had hand-painted on a stage coat of mine. I wore the coat on the cover of my "Lucky Devils" CD, and also on the DVD release of "Rick Vito in Concert," and Joe always liked the images. So I sent them to him and he sandblasted them onto black anodized aluminum on the front and back of the basic Reverend guitar shape. I hope people will like them because they're great guitars. The pickups are wound hotter than usual, the weight is perfect, and the necks are completely easy to play. Reverend is also soon coming out with my signature guitar without the images, in just plain black.
MGS - I see you also are a fan of the Reverend Kingsnake amp. Lots of
great tones in that amp.
RV -Yes it's very versatile, fits well into recording tracks, and sounds great live. The problem is that very few people will get to know these amps because Joe Naylor has already made the decision to stick primarily to guitars and won't be making any more. Too bad, because these are fantastic amps. All you smart ebay people should snap one up if you can because they are certain to become collectible. Mark my words.
MGS - Do you have a big vintage collection? What are some of the nicer
guitars or amps that you have?
RV -I have a modest vintage collection, but it happens to include three or four "holy grails" in it. I have '59 'Burst, a '58 Flying V, a '58 Explorer, a '54 Strat, and a small assortment of Gibsons, Valco-made guitars, Fenders, Gretsch, and such. I mentioned a couple my amps, and I also have a few Nationals, Ampegs, and other Fenders. I have owned many, many guitars over the years but have let too many go. I am extremely fortunate to have what I have and so I use them all.
MGS - Have you checked out any of this amp modeling stuff out there?
RV-Yeah, I have a Line 6 Pod and have gotten some excellent sounds using it in stereo with a line to a real amp, then blending the two.
MGS - What's in your CD player right now?
RV -Dean Martin.
MGS - Any funny Fleetwood Mac or any other projects stories?
RV -Once I got a job to do the "Midnight Special" TV show and a tour with Little Richard who was also hosting the show. This was in 1974. I rehearsed all week with him and was relishing the experience of working with one of my idols. Then he pulled me aside and told me to visit his tailor to be fitted for my "stage outfit," which turned out to be a skintight bright lavender one-piece jump suit with a "Superfly" open collar, bell-bottom pants, and an accompanying gold medallion. I told him, "No way," but he said if I didn't wear it, there would be no show and no tour. I had no money, so I had to swallow my pride and wear it on national TV! During the show, and on camera, he brought me to the front of the stage to jam on "Irene, Goodnight," which we didn't even rehearse, so I was pretty completely humiliated. Next day his brother called to say, "Ah, Rick...ah, Richard can't afford to bring you with him on his tour after all, but he says thanks for doing the show." I've been told that they still occasionally air that show on cable, ha-ha!
MGS - I have your slide solo from Segers "Like a rock" burned into my
psyche. Do you remember the gear rundown for that one? Slide and all?
RV -Thank you. That was the Dumble, my '56 Les Paul TV Jr., a Sears 5/8" socket for slide and a cord. The reverb and echo was added by the engineer, David Cole. It was a first take, done in 1985. I earned TV replay royalties for over 10 years for that solo that took about 10 minutes to record!
MGS - Where did you record that song? Was Bob there?
RV -At a place called Rumbo Studios in the San Fernando valley in L.A.. Yeah, Bob was there. I met him, he put the song on and I suggested slide which he didn't want at first. I asked to just give it one pass, and that was the one, except for having to punch in the final three chords because I didn't know where it was going to end. It was just a good match of a guitar sound with the right song. It brings to mind the fact that, even though I composed that solo on the spot, a musician surrenders his creative work to the owner of the copyright when you accept payment for a recording session. If I had received even partial credit as a co- writer of the music portion of the song, I would have earned millions of dollars as a result. Something for all you guys who want to be session players to think about.
MGS - The Dumble on the "Like a Rock" track, what model was it? Have you ever had any personal experience with Mr. Dumble ? Hes made out to sound like a paranoid recluse.
RV - It was a late 70's era Overdrive Reverb that I had since the Jackson Browne days, around '83. I knew "Howard" back then, but have not seen him for many years. He is a little eccentric I guess, but when I first knew him he was very nice. I was the first one I know of to review an Overdrive Special for a magazine article in the early eighties. Can't remember which one. I once thought I sold him my house but apparantly he was not serious and never applied for a loan!
MGS -Wow a 59 burst and 54 strat. Mind if I stop over and jam? Ill bring new strings.
RV -Come on, but bring the heaviest NOS 50 year old LaBella strings you can find.
MGS - Are you using a pedalboard with your solo band? If so can you detail your live rig? Guitars, amps, pedals etc.?
RV -Yes. It has some Boss pedals for analog delay, digital reverb, tremelo, tuner, then there's a secret pedal, and a Stamps Drive-O-matic pedal that I keep on the lowest setting almost like a jazzed up volume boost with a little edge.
I alternate between the Reverend Kingsnake, Deluxe Reverb, or the old Bassman. I used to also have a Dr Z Maz 38 but it got lost. I like Jensens, Celestion Vintage 30's, Mojotones, and Peavey black speakers( whatever they are). I like either one 12, two 12's, or four 10's. Never more than that.
MGS - Do you think Bob will tour again? It doesnt seem that will happen. Does he record at home? I would think even outof the spotlight the desire to make music wouldnt go away.
RV -I gave up trying to figure that a long time ago. I recorded a whole new CD with hime, I guess three years ago, but I've heard he scrapped that one and a few more that he's cut since then. I know he records in Nashville sometimes, but I don't know about home. Probably not. He still makes a lot of music, but no one knows if he'll be happy enough with anything to release it. Maybe that's where his title, "It's A Mystery" comes from.
MGS - Ive always liked the guitar work on " Somebodys baby" by Jackson Browne. What gear did you use?
RV -Thanks. again, the Dumble, and a new (then) Tele-style guitar with Humbuckers in split coil and a tremelo unit. Simple set-up.
MGS - Im sorry Rick but that story about the Little Richard gig was hilarious. At least it wasnt a chicken suit. I would have kicked his teeth in. How did you handle it?
RV - There's something about being hungry and dead broke that came into the equation. He wasn't trying to embarras me. It's just that this was how his band dressed at the time. There was no need for the two bass players in the band though!
MGS - Wow so you didnt get anything for the Chevy commercial? That slide is the main audio focus in that commercial. I live fairly close to Bob I think , I could stop over.....
RV -No, I said that I earned performance royalties for ten years for it, and that was good. There were no writer's royalties involved because it was an improvisation on a record, and that's what much of session work is all about--you coming up with something that makes the artist's song sound good. You run the risk that your work will be a driving force in what ultimately makes the song a hit. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and I'm sure that my guitar work on that song has led to many other good opportunities for me. I just did not happen to be one of the guys who made a fortune from the Chevy commercial. Better stay away from Bob though, I hear he's locked and loaded.
MGS - Ever think about trying to call Gary Moore to try and buy Peters Les Paul ? I would imagine it crossed your mind when you were a member of Fleetwood Mac being the vinatge guitar guy you are.
RV -Funny, because once with Fleetwood Mac, he opened for us in Belgium and he had the guitar with him. Mick and I asked his roadie if we could see the guitar and he pulled it out of the case. I got to hold it play a few licks on it, and Mick and I just sort of looked at each other. It had such meaning for both of us. Of course it's none of my damn business, but I personally think that Gary Moore (whom I think is a great blues player) ought to drive over to Peter Green's house, hand back the guitar and say,"Thanks for the lessons and the loan."
MGS - If you could choose one gig today as a sideman and one as a member, what projects would you choose?
RV -I'd be a sideman in Muddy Waters' band and a member of the Rolling Stones. What better gigs could there be?
MGS- What's the history on the 59 burst and 54 strat? Can we see pics? What are the stories behind them? Any other gear that has a good story attached to it?
RV -I got my first 1958 'burst around 1978 from Norm's Rare Guitars in Reseda Ca.for $3500, which was really expensive then. Norm and I used to have a band together called the Angel City Rhythm Band and I hung out at the store all the time, playing poker, and watching the parade of "guitarded" characters come through. I've been around vintage guitars and guitar-nuts all my playing life, so I felt right at home there. Through Norm and his partner Dan, I bought, traded, and sold, just about every rare guitar imagineable-I've had them all at one point or another. I wrote an article on Norm and the vintage market that appeared in Guitar Player in 1976, and many say that this was the "official" beginning of worldwide consciousness that a vintage "market" existed. His business went through the roof after that came out, and you started seeing "vintage" stores opening all over. There were tons of guitars available back then. Anyway, I kept that 'burst about six years, sold it at Norm's, and then around '88 I got a 1959 model (at 25K by now), then another 1960 model in '89 I sold both of them when I saw my present 'burst that I also got through Norm in '92. This one had the mojo I'd always been looking for, good flame, not too heavy, not perfect, but very cool. Sounds amazing, of course. I'm very lucky that I was in a work force that allowed me to invest in these type instruments. I do wish I'd kept them all, because I always knew that they were among the best investments anywhere, and time has proven me correct. The '54 Strat came as a trade from a guy who liked my '59 hardtail Strat. He had another Strat also and was not in love with the '54. They ('54's) were not as sought after in 1980 as they are now, so the fact that it was a '54 didn't really matter any more than a '59. It's the only one I have. I'm not generally associated with Strats, which is fine because there are already enough guys who publicize that they use them. It's great though, and again, it's not perfect but it's mojo-filled.
MGS - I remember reading about Dumble being involved with Jackson Browne and Lindley I think it was. Was this the time you were with them?
RV -Yes, I was asked to join Jackson's band after David Lindley left, and he had a slew of Dumbles. I really respect David, who is quite an articulate and witty guy both personally and in his playing. Dumble first came to prominence through Jackson and Lindley, that's for sure. Jackson set Dumble up with a workplace in the "Abbey," which was the Browne's family house that his father hand-built out of stone, a really incredible place in L.A.. So he was like this mad scientist tucked away in this gated old house. It suited him perfectly. This was where the amps started to get expensive, and he devised his set of conditions or whatever you had to agree to before he would build you an amp. We always got along fine though.
MGS - Ok you only get 2 words per person...... GO!
1. Bob Seger -enigmatic, rocker
2. Jackson Browne -poetic, compassionate
3. Lindsey Buckingham -no comment
4. Stevie Nicks -charismatic, sister-like
5. Little Richard -classic, crazy
6. Howard Dumble -solitary, innovative
7. Tony Cole -incredibly handsome
8. Eric Clapton 1967 -inspiring, groundbreaking
9. Eric Clapton 2005 -icon, survivor
10.Robert Redford -retired, hopefully
11. Fred Sanford - my hero