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Buddy Whittington

Hi Buddy, can you tell us what you’re currently doing?

Yeah, I’m just finishing up a few gigs here at home, buying a new suitcase and getting ready to hit the road for the summer.

That epithet that John Mayall gave you “possibly the greatest Bluesbreaker of them all” is quite something as the “all” includes Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. How do you feel about that – we sense it could be a bit of a weight to carry at times?

Aw, it’s all just marketing, you know. And although I’ve heard John say some very nice things about me, I can’t recall exactly where he said THAT. Anyway, I had a good 15 years with The Bluesbreakers, and I’m honored to have played music with all those guys. Gotta get movin’ though, time’s a wastin’, as they say!

 

You’re widely known as one of a long line of Texas Bluesmen – can you tell us where is ‘home’ for you (in Texas?) and what the local scene is like there.

I  live in Hurst, between Ft Worth and Dallas, in the North Central part of the state. Been in the area all my life, born in Ft Worth. We have plenty of good musicians of all genres that call the area home, a lot of good music going on if you know where to look.

 

Talking about ‘Texas’ Bluesmen – who would you say was the greatest of that line, bearing in mind it goes back to Freddie King and away before that too.

Well, it’s real hard to say who is ‘The Greatest’, when the forefathers are Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mance Lipscomb, T-Bone Walker, Ray Sharpe, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland,  Gatemouth Brown, Bugs Henderson, John Nitzinger, Anson Funderburg, too many to count but all of them made their mark in their own way. I was fortunate to see Freddie quite a few times in the 70’s, it was a great time to be growing up!

 

What do you think about the ‘macho’ image that seems to accompany a lot of modern Texas blues – there’s one guy (can’t recall the name) who wears black leather, studs, chains, boots and all – is it in danger of becoming a caricature?

Well, that’s just ‘showbidness’. I’m so far removed from that kinda thing personally that it doesn’t really apply to me, I’m just a guy out workin’.  But in a business like the one we’re all trying to be/stay  in, sometimes it pays to be a little ‘left of center’ to get noticed. But being ‘me’ has worked for me, for better or worse!

Are they all like that down in Texas?

(big smile) No, just the ones carrying concealed handguns.

  What’s your regular gigging line-up

Here at home I work with a number of musicians depending on the gig, love ‘em all but my ‘regular’ Texas band consists of  Micheal ‘Mouse’ Mayes on guitar and vocals, Wayne Six on bass and Mike Gage on drums, Mike is also a producer/engineer of  enormous talent and has helped me with both my albums.
In the UK and Europe, my good friends Roger Cotton on keys, Pete Stroud on bass, and Darby Todd on drums have been putting up with me for years now, it’s a very tight unit and we enjoy working together.
Roger is also a noted producer/engineer and is the proprietor of Roundel Studios near Dartford.

 

We noticed the album is a trio line-up – do you find that better than having, say, keys / horns to play off?

Well, ‘better’ is a big word. Listen to ‘Texas Trios’, it’s been goin’ on for quite a while!  Depends on the project, the tunes, the funding, schedules, a lot of variables there. And I think if a song can stand on its own with minimal accompaniment/overdubs, there’s a better than average chance it’s a good song. When I play the same tunes live with Rog, Pete and Darby, arrangements change, different instruments solo, and we have piano and organ instead of another guitar as in the Texas band, where we have lots of  harmony vocals and not so many with the UK band. We have a ‘bandstand’ CD, available only at the gigs  called ‘Bag Full of Blues’ consisting mostly often-requested tunes from our show, some standards and a couple of my originals from past John Mayall records, pretty much a ‘live’ document.

 

Do you step outside of the blues format much? There’s a lot of quite funky stuff on the album – altered 9ths and 5ths, etc. Do you step right outside into jazz at all, and if so what do you play

I learned early to be a career musician you have to be versatile, I love the blues and it’s at the root of everything I do, but it is by no means all I do, or like to do. I always quote Jimmie Vaughan, I read once where he said ‘I can’t play jazz, but I can play jazzy.’ Wish I’d said that!

 

Obviously there is a huge cross-over between the genres – do you step into country, roots, etc?

Well, again, growing up in Texas, you’d better be ready to play  ‘Waltz Across Texas’ by Ernest Tubb,  a 4/4 country shuffle ala Johnny Bush like ‘Undo The Wrong’ or ‘Whiskey River’, some Merle Haggard and George Jones, ‘Honky Tonk’ by Bill Doggett with Billy Butler on guitar, ‘Hideaway’ by Freddie King, ‘Big Boss Man’ or ‘Honest I Do’ by Jimmy Reed, they’re all kinda ‘in the book’. At least my generation’s book, can’t say what’s going on more recently.

 

Can you tell us about the thinking behind the latest album, title, themes, etc. we did note that a lot of it seems quite autobiographical

I write a lot from personal experience, and I started writing some of the tunes years ago, carrying around a big plastic bag of cocktail napkins with lyrics scrawled on ‘em every time somebody said something that caught my ear. I’ve heard it said that the key to originality is keeping your sources concealed!

 

Who or what do listen to when you’re chilling out?

Talk Radio on the way home from the gig to clear my head!
Everyone should check out ‘From The 5’ by the late, great Stephen Bruton from Fort Worth, Texas. Songwriting and playing of the highest caliber.

 

What’s your favourite Sunday morning record?

There’s a great AM radio station here in D/FW I listen to on Sunday mornings, KKDA Soul 73, 730 on your AM dial. They play all the great African American gospel vocal groups, a lot of Pops Staples with the tremolo on his amp turned up! I love all those harmonies, and it’s easy to see where all the great early R&B tunes came from.

 

When you’re in the bath / shower what (if) do you sing?

(bigger smile)Better steer clear of that one! Actually I do have some vocal warm-ups that are good to run through  pre-gig, especially if you’ve been beltin’ ‘em out (notice I didn’t say ‘singing’) in a smoky room all week.

 

Can you recall the first time you picked up a guitar? …and the first tune you played

I have a photo of my sister and me when I was about 5, I’m holding a crank-up Mickey Mouse

‘Mousegee-tar’, does that count? Kind of the ‘Guitar Hero’ of its day, I guess.

 

…and your first gig?

First gig was with a friend of mine named Mark Peterson at a little joint in the same building as a ‘Gulf’ truck/tire service station, we had everybody from the Mayor to the Fire Marshall to the truckers waiting on getting a flat fixed in there! I was about 15, so they all kinda looked after me and kept me out of trouble.

 

Highlights of your time with John Mayall?

You mean besides getting paid? Just working in music at the next rung o’ the ladder up was a great thing, having a tour bus AND a hotel room in the UK and Europe, Lincoln Town Cars and Cadillacs in the States.

Opening for ZZ Top in the US, and of course John’s 70th Birthday Concert in Liverpool with Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber, I am honored to have shared a stage with all those gents, not to mention the guys I worked with everyday, Rick Cortes, Hank Van Sickle, John Paulus, Joe Yuele, Tom Canning, we had some great times, musical and otherwise. 

 

What is John Mayall like to work with?

I hear from guys in the know that he was a stern taskmaster in his younger days, but he was always a sweetheart to me. He’ll give you about enough rope to hang yourself!

 

If we were interviewing John Mayall face-to-face would you have any advice for us

I wouldn’t ask him the shower question. And don’t refer to him as one of the ‘Dinosaurs of the Blues’, I remember that set him off pretty good  once!

 

 

What interests do you have outside of music?

I’m a family man, two kids nearly grown and have been runnin’ around with the same groovy chick since about ’77, we try to do things together  and be ‘normal’ when I’m home, go to church more or less every Sunday.

 

Is there a question you’d like us to ask you, or a question you’d like to here but never do? If so here’s your chance

Tell ‘em all I’m NOT the guitar tech! (well, actually I am, the only one we have anyway ;^)

But I’ll be the guy playing the guitar during the show.

 

Finally, what’s your favourite food when you’re on the road and what are your future ambitions?

Good Tex-Mex at home, Indian or Fish and Chips in the UK, pasta in Italy, and my one ambition is learning to STAY AWAY from them all!

 

Ok Buddy Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us

 

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