|Meeting Your Guitar Heroes: Are You
Or, how do you communicate with Ted Nugent and Rick Derringer without appearing to be psycho, stupid, or both?
Do you have any guitar heroes? You know – those players you really like and feel their playing style is worthy of emulation? Are there one or two who have really inspired you to really get good at playing guitar?
I have about four true guitar heroes. They are Ted Nugent, Rick Derringer, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser of Blue Öyster Cult, and Eddie Van Halen. The works of these four guitarists formed the foundation of my guitar vocabulary, and I bought their vinyl albums and cassettes (and now CDs and downloads) trying to master the nuances of their collective playing. And yes, I'm still working on it.
Over the years I’ve seen all of these guitarists play live, and I’ve always studied the way they played and interacted with their audiences. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the chance to meet any of them one-on-one, even though I have always held out hope.
The real question is simple: what would I say to each of these guitarists if I got the chance to meet them and have a conversation? The fantasy view is that I would be brilliant, witty, and ask some insightful questions that would lead me directly to the secrets of their playing. In reality, it would probably go much like the old Saturday Night Live skit with the late Chris Farley. In the skit, Mr. Farley was conducting an interview with Sir Paul McCartney. Farley looks at McCartney and says, “Remember when you were in The Beatles?” McCartney replies with a polite, “Yes”. Farley then looks down and states, “I am so STUPID! I can’t believe I asked that question.” You get the idea – coming across like Wayne Campbell meeting Alice Cooper in Milwaukee.
Against this backdrop an incredible turn of events occurred. I met two of my four guitar heroes (50% for you academic types) in a two month period!
First, I met Rick Derringer of “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” fame. The GuitarAttack Crew traveled to Reading, Pennsylvania for the "Fall Philly (Philadelphia) Guitar Show" on November 11, 2006.
I had just arrived at
the show and was doing the first walk-through. I walked past the Warrior
Guitar Booth and saw a pile of Rick Derringer merchandise. I vaguely
remembered seeing an ad with Rick holding a Warrior Guitar. I
thought to myself, “Hmmm...he couldn't actually be here, could he?” Then I
heard one of the dudes at the booth say, "Rick will be right back."
I introduced myself to Rick and told him how much I enjoyed his playing. He was very polite, and made me feel at ease as I went through my Chris Farley routine – completely unrehearsed! He invited me to come behind the counter and try one of his signature guitars. I walked back and sat down. He handed me the guitar and plugged me into an amp. I honestly cannot remember what kind of amp it was, but I asked him to get me a nice “shred tone.”
There I was, Rick Derringer staring me down. I started playing some chords, then kicked into "Beyond the Universe" from his live album -- my favorite -- and he kind of chuckled. Did I stink? Was it killer? Not sure, but there was Rick. As I sit there playing, I thought back to being a teenager and playing along with Derringer Live. It was just unbelievable. In the words of Mike Myer’s character “Dieter”, I was intimidated to the point of humiliation.
Once I finished playing, he was nice enough to pose for a photo. However, he charged me ten bucks for an autograph. Oh well....I guess I got off easy! Over the years I've met a lot of "guitar heroes", or dudes who thought that they were heroes. However, none were as nice to me as Rick, and I certainly appreciate that. I believe that is the hallmark of a real pro, and somebody who understands the business.
Thanks again, Rick. I truly appreciate the opportunity to finally meet you!
Next up, a meeting with Mr. Ted Nugent on 19 January, 2007. Rick Derringer was kind a cult hero in my circle of music friends, but everybody knew about Ted Nugent. I was introduced to Ted Nugent’s music through his album “Cat Scratch Fever.” That song was the first song I learned to play in a band. I was a junior in high school, and I was playing with Eric Pegram (drums), Marty Perkins (bass), and Steve Lafever (guitar). We learned Cat Scratch Fever for a talent show at the high school. We practiced and practiced, and we finally got it right. Eric did lead vocals, and he did a great job. I remember sitting at Eric’s house listening to Cat Scratch Fever, playing air guitar, and generally just getting in to being a rocker wannabe. Eric’s parents were music teachers, and they would let us listen to rock albums really loud. Eric had a killer set of Pearl drums, and that was good enough for me.
Fast forward thirty years to 2007. My next door neighbor Mike is also a great drummer. We’ve been recording some originals, and I am constantly impressed with how good he is. Come to find out that Mike had jammed with Ted Nugent. When we found out that Ted was coming to Reading, PA, Mike contacted his manager and we got a gig – Mike and I were going to help Ted at the autograph table.
We arrived at the Expo Center in Reading and went straight to Ted’s booth. Ted wasn’t around, but Big Jim was there, and he put us to work. After Ted made his speech concerning hunting and conservation, we stood there for two hours while he signed autographs. It was really cool to see how sincere the folks were who were coming through the line. Ted spoke to all of them, and was very, very patient.
In the intervening time I was able to engage in small talk with Ted, and he was really nice to us. After the event Mike and walked to the car and I said, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!” It was just unbelievable. All of those memories of sitting at Eric’s house, listening to Ted’s music, just came rushing back. Thanks, Ted. You made my year!
The coolest thing was that both of these rock veterans were very cool and patient with their public. I think about how arrogant and testy a lot of young rockers are. They need to take a lesson from these pros.
And by the way – I don’t think you can really ever prepare to meet 50% of your idols….but you have to try! Also, I am very relieved that I was not disappointed by either of these gentlemen.
So who is next? I'm going to try to see Buck Dharma somewhere on the East Coast this spring. Blue Öyster Cult is always on the road, and I am sure I can figure out a way to meet him and get a photo with him. If anybody knows Buck, please let us know.
As far as Van Halen goes, I read this morning that David Lee Roth is back in the band for a tour in Summer 2007. This might finally give me a chance to meet Eddie.
Now if I can just get my name on the Ernie Ball strings package things would be really cool....