TheWorkingMusician.com Side Men
What it takes to make a great side man (or side woman) ...
What kind of gigs did you do when you got back?
I went to work for Wayne West in Norwalk, up behind a bar in a club again. The thing that impressed Wayne about me was that I didn't
play all over the top of him. He had a very classical voice and sang things like "Old Man River." I always figured that you play
so that the singer sounds good, and not play everything that you do Ė so he really liked that.
Being a true disciple of music, how would you define your role?
Music is king. No matter who that music might have gone through. If that person is an egomaniac, that's their problem, but the music
came through them. So if the music demands that I play one note every eight bars, I'm gonna own that note, 'cuz that's the note the
music needs. It's not about playing a solo; it's about what the music needs, so it can get to the listener the way it flowed through
the original writer.
That's the thing, I adapt. People's egos and their personal problems matter only a little, because the music is king. I know it sounds
simplistic and philosophical Ė and I'm not gonna say it hasn't been without pitfalls Ė but whenever I go back to that place,
it makes everything clear.
I once saw an interview with Eric Clapton where he was talking about Stevie and he said something
about Stevie that has kind of stuck with me ever since. The basic gist of what he said was that Stevieís playing
was just pure emotion with no filters, it just came straight from God through Stevie and into the guitar.
Most people filter their creativity through their own insecurities and thoughts, through whatever is going on in
their life at that given moment, but Stevie just let it go and was always able to get into a zone where there
were no filters. Do you feel thatís an accurate representation of what it was like to play with Stevie on a
nightly basis? Could you just "feel" the intensity and emotion flow from him when you played live? Is that "no-filter zone"
something we all strive for as musicians?
I agree with Eric Clapton completely, it was like Stevieís music came from God and straight through him. The whole
time I played with him, the whole ten years there, there was never a night that I didnít get on stage that he
didnít do something new or something that just blew my mind. Itís like when he picked up his guitar he went into
a different state of mind. Even if he was just sitting around in his living room, heíd pick up his guitar and
start playing and I remember thereís that look heíd get in his eyes - half drooped a little bit, itís like he
went into this "zone", and yes that is the place that all musicians strive to get. I get there sometimes but I
canít say that I live there like Stevie did. It was a great gift he had. I remember on the song "Soul To Soul",
thereís one part in it where Iíd go up to his mic and weíd sing "soul to soul" during the breakdown and it was
like walking into this energy field. I know that sounds strange, but itís the truth. You could just feel the fire
and the intensity and passion in his playing. It was incredible, he had an incredible gift. Itís like when he
played he poured out everything in his life and Iíve never met another musician like that. I have to say the years
that I played with Stevie were the best of my life as far as my musical projects go.