AN INTERVIEW WITH RICK VITO (THE GENTLEMAN SUPERSTAR) BY ED HUERTA

 

Rick Vito

 

Jackaboutguitars is proud to present an interview with guitarist Rick Vito. Rick  has played guitar with plenty of people that we’ve all heard, although I for one, and maybe you, may have not known it was his guitar playing that we were listening to.

 

Rick currently plays guitar in Rick Vito and The Lucky Devils, The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and also in The Island Rumours Band with Mick Fleetwood.

By the time this story goes live, Rick Vito & The Lucky Devils will have just finished up at the Harvest Blues Festival in Monaghan, Ireland and will be headed to Bavaria, Austria, all kinds of places in Germany, of which the only one I can pronounce is Hamburg, and also to Denmark over the period of the next three weeks.

(An update from Rick):

“Sadly, bad weather in Washington D.C. on Sept. 6 grounded flights in or out and no other airline or connecting city could be found to bring me and the band to Dublin for the Harvest Time Blues Festival. We had no other choice but to go home and leave the next morning for Munich and the rest of our Euro-tour. Our deepest apologies go out to all those who worked so hard to have us there. We truly hope we can make it up to you in the future.”

That says it all about just how gracious Rick is. Back to the story…

Rick, you certainly named this band as correctly as one could have ever dreamed.  These guys are certainly a bunch of Lucky Devils!  I could only dream of being in such a band…”Lynn (my wife), I’m going to work now.  Oh, by the way, it’s Europe for the next three weeks.”…and as the story goes – then he (I) woke up. Dream on Jackson!!!

Anyway, wishing Rick and The Lucky Devils a fantastic tour in Europe and hoping that you guys make it up to Portland, Oregon some day. (Rick, dinner is on me when you get up this way).

 


Rick Vito and The Lucky Devils…’I Do Believe’

 

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band…’Fleetwood Boogie’

 

After this interview wrapped up, Rick was going to be heading out to Shreveport, Lousiana to the James Burton International Guitar Festival, to play some tunes with his friend, the GREAT James Burton, and help celebrate James’ 75th Birthday. Happy Belated Birthday James!

 

Rick was a member of Fleetwood Mac, has played with Bob Seger, and is known for his guitar work on ‘Like A Rock’.  He has also played on every Bob Seger album since 1986.

 

Rick with Fleetwood MacFleetwood Mac…Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Rick Vito, Christine McVie, John McVie, & Billy Burnette

 

 Fleetwood Mac…’I Loved Another Woman’ featuring Rick Vito

 

Rick Vito’s Bio

Here’s a little bit more info (from Rick’s Bio pulled with permission from Rick) to give you an idea of what Rick has been up to over the years and with whom:

“Rick also worked with such artists as LITTLE RICHARD, BOBBY WHITLOCK, JOHN PRINE, and DOBIE GRAY among many others.

Late in 1974 Rick received an invitation to join a new band being formed by British Blues pioneer, JOHN MAYALL, with whom Rick worked with subsequently on four albums.

“…a master of the instrument, at last getting the attention he deserves as bandleader/bluesman that is long overdue.” – JOHN MAYALL

 

In the following years, Rick was a member of ex-BYRD ROGER MCGUINN‘s group, THUNDERBYRD, and also a founding member of Los Angeles club favorites, the ANGEL CITY RHYTHM BAND. With the ACRB, Rick had a unique opportunity to back many of the Blues greats he had been influenced by. Performing regularly at the Topanga Canyon Corral club on Monday Blues nights, they regularly held court with ALBERT COLLINS, LOWELL FULSON, BIG JOE TURNER, and GEORGE ‘HARMONICA’ SMITH, among many others.

By 1980 Rick had recorded two albums worth of material and was starting to place more songs with other artists such as MCGUINN CLARK & HILLMAN, and DAVID SOUL. At the same time he began a long association with slide-guitar queen, BONNIE RAITT, appearing on her rocking LP, “GREEN LIGHT”, and as a member of her touring band. Rick spent most of 1982-83 working with LA- based singer/songwriter, JACKSON BROWNE. He appears on Jackson’s single’ “SOMEBODY’S BABY”, and on his albums, “LAWYERS IN LOVE”, and “LIVES IN THE BALANCE”.

In between solo recording and live shows in the LA area, Rick continued session dates with many artists including RITA COOLIDGE, MARIA MULDAUR, and DOLLY PARTON.

For more info on Rick’s great career, do check out his website Rick Vito .com  You can check out his music, artwork, CD’s, DVD’s as well as all kinds of cool photos, videos, and media about him.

 

Rick Vito and The Lucky Devils…’When The Big One Comes’

And now it’s time for the interview with Rick Vito by Jackaboutguitars’ one and only, “Prince of Primitive”, Ed Huerta.

The works of world renowned artist and writer  Ed Huerta, take up residence in the ‘ART “N” SOUL section of the Jackaboutguitars Blog.  AKA as ”The Prince of Primitive”, Ed Huerta was born in Los Angeles and currently resides in Long Beach, California.

A longtime musician, Ed has played in several L.A./O.C. bands, including Rockford, The Jack Brewer Band, The Lazy Cowgirls, The Final Tourguides, Moist and Meaty, Mind Over 4, The Silly Millions, Copper 7, & Eddie & The Trays.  He has also toured the U.S. and Europe as a drummer.

AN INTERVIEW WITH RICK VITO (THE GENTLEMAN SUPERSTAR) BY ED HUERTA

RV#1

I must say when my brother Jack called me and said he had an interview lined up with Rick Vito that he wanted me to do for Jackaboutguitars, well, I  was a bit apprehensive to do it. I mean THIS IS RICK VITO, people!  A W.C. Handy Award winner, a Grammy nominee…I mean this cat has played with everybody from James Burton, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, Mick Fleetwood, Rita Coolidge, Dolly Parton, Steven Tyler, Deke Dickerson, even David Soul! I mean he has been on Oprah (the TV show – not the woman), David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell, VH1 Storytellers…so sure, I’ll just ring up Rick Vito…

 

Rick Vito with Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen…’Runnin’ On Empty’

So I was expecting someone that was a little miffed, with attitude, for taking up his time. Folks, Rick Vito is a big time celebrity. He could have easily blown this off with single word answers and rehearsed, standard bullsh*t. I mean Rick did not know me from Adam (now that’s a weird saying…”knowing me from Adam?” does that go back to the biblical Adam and not knowing who the person was??? I mean there weren’t too many people to choose from back then) so I expected a little heaviness.

 

Well, for being such a living legend, this man could not have been more cordial or polite. He was even very gracious when my phone’s battery went out during the interview and I had to call him back on the wife’s cell phone. Maybe I am just too used to the Southern California way of rude people out here but Rick has a sort of Southern gentlemanly quality to his speech and storytelling. I was truly honored to have the opportunity to interview such a top-notch performer, artist and musician.

 

If you readers are not familiar with Rick’s work than by all means hit his website (rickvito.com) and Spotify some of his music…and don’t forget to support his music. I will surely go see him when he comes to town again…armed with my CD’s for signing! So without much more ado, here is the interview with a true legend and a very nice, humble gentleman. I wish you all of the good fortune in the world Mr. Rick Vito. You made me feel at ease and it was truly appreciated. Respects, Ed Huerta.

 

EH: Hi Rick, let me get started here. My first question is, and according to your bio, you mentioned that the Everly Brothers was your first live show that you ever saw. Now can you give us a description on how it felt or how it affected you that it would make a little kid want to become a rock and roll star for the rest of his life?

 

RV: (chuckles)  Now I don’t know if I could put that together until a number of years later but I know at that point that this whole thing started off with Elvis, then this rock and roll mania started taking place, and my mother she had this old Hawaiian lap acoustic guitar that she used to take lessons with when she was a girl, for Hawaiian music, and me and my brother used to jump around the living room with that guitar pretending we were Elvis and we lived in Philadelphia so we had American Bandstand on every day after school, a rock and roll dance show, and he (Dick Clark) also had a night time show on Friday nights and he just showcased everybody…so you could turn on that show every day after school and turn on Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, just everybody was on that show…so just a lot of rock and roll and my Mom was pretty hip – she had a lot of cool records.

 

We used to get records from the jukebox, my grandmother had a jukebox, at my grandmother’s tavern, so we had a huge collection, and back in those days they used to give you new records to replace the old ones and we had a lot of Everly Brothers and it was my mom that took me to the Steel Pier (Atlantic City) to see the Everly Brothers and the thing that I remember about it was that it was loud, now not loud by today’s standards, but these guys were playing through amplifiers and the lead guitar player was jumping all over the stage and it was really cool. I could really relate to it…

 

EH: I read also you have a Seeburg jukebox…

 

RV: I have two of them right now…I’ve had a lot of them…I have a vintage 1950 and a 1959 model.

 

EH: Now you are/were a big fan of Elvis, Scotty Moore, Ricky Nelson and James Burton just to name a few…now did you ever get to meet any of these legends?

 

RV: Funny you should mention that. I got to meet Ricky Nelson quite a few times back in the 70’s and also from doing sessions in L.A., I met James Burton and a few years ago we renewed our friendship here in Tennessee and as a matter of fact, today is James Burton’s  75th birthday (August 21) and tomorrow I’m flying down to Shreveport because he invited me to play at his 75th birthday bash and International Guitar Show and that takes place Saturday night so it’s really come full circle for me…

Rick with James BurtonRick with James Burton

EH: That’s really, really cool…from you watching him play on Ricky Nelson (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) to actually playing with him…

 

RV: Yeah, that’s really, really cool…it’s a real honor…

 

Rick Vito, James Burton, & Seymour Duncan…’Mystery Train’

 

EH: I bet..My next question is what attracted you to the blues? You could have easily gone country or easy listening but what is the big fascination of the blues for you?

 

RV: Well, I think there was a lot of blues in Elvis music and I think it was the kind of bluesy songs I liked most about him without realizing that it was the blues and then later after The Beatles came out, followed by the Rolling Stones, I loved The Beatles, but when The Stones came out I really related to that earthy music that they played even more. Back in those days there were LP’s and you got to read the liner notes and find out who the songwriters were and who the original artists were like Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed all those guys.

 

Then I started seeing guys like Freddie King on a television show on Saturdays in Philadelphia called “The Beat” it was broadcast out of Nashville and some were from Texas, it was the real deal, they had all r and b and blues artists on that show so I got to see them getting down…

 

EH: It’s funny that it took a group of English kids to bring American blues back to America, I guess that’s what The Stones did.

 

RV: The Germans first brought all those guys over there and recorded and they did the same tour over in England and all the jazz and the people in the know, the young Rolling Stones, the John Mayall’s and all these people got to see all these American artists and it was really special to them and so when they did their own versions of that stuff it caught because of The Beatles and it sort of came full circle.

 

EH: Now your guitar playing, whether people know it or not, is very immersed in America’s public psyche. Your guitar playing is featured in Chevy trucks “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger and also on Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” that was featured in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (EH: one of my favorite movies, by the way) and every time I hear that song, I think of the scene with Jennifer Jason Leigh…now is it weird that when you are watching TV and these songs come on and you hear yourself, now, is that sort of cool?

 

Rick with Bob Seger…’Like A Rock’

 

RV: Yeah, it was always cool. That Chevy truck ad ran about 10 years. And so we did get paid a little bit every year and it added up to a decent amount and it was gratifying to know that people all over America are hearing me play. They might not know it’s me but they are hearing me, Yes, every time I heard it I liked it.

 

EH: Yes, amazing not too many people can say that. Now, I want to jump ahead. You were one of the guys (the other was Billy Burnette) that replaced Lindsay Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac. I know that must have been interesting, now what was that like? Did you encounter any negativity thrown your way by Fleetwood Mac fans that you replaced Lindsay Buckingham?

 

Fleetwood Mac featuring Billy Burnette & Rick Vito…’Oh Well’

RV: There was one quote that came out and it persists to this day, and I will get to that in a minute, but overall at the time, the Fleetwood Mac fans were totally accepting of Billy and I. Now there was never ever anything in print that wasn’t really, really great. Like review of a shows etc, the fans never yelled out anything from the audience. Nothing like that. It was totally welcoming at the time it was a totally, totally great experience.

 

There was some smart aleck comment that somebody made that it took two guitar players to replace the awesomeness of Lindsay Buckingham and if you’re a Lindsay Buckingham fan to this day, I still see that in print sometimes. Now no one can ever replace Lindsay Buckingham, that kind of thing and I understand that if you’re a fan of somebody you’re going to be loyal to them but at the time, I never got any negative feedback from anybody at all and it was a totally wonderful experience for the four years that I was a member of that band.

 

EH: I saw Mick Fleetwood a few times and he seems like a pretty cool guy. I remember I went to the Spinal Tap drummer tryout at the Coliseum in Los Angeles and he was there trying out, just for a lark, but he seems pretty cool.

 

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band…’Black Magic Woman’

RV: Yeah, and as far as Mick and John went, at the time, they were part of the original Fleetwood Mac and the original Fleetwood Mac, I could tell you, the original is more geared to those guys than the 70’s version, not that they didn’t love everything about the 70’s version of the band, but at that point in time there were three guitar players in the band and so they loved the fact that there were two guitar players in the band again and they made use of it in real creative ways.

 

EH: I know you are friends with Billy Burnette and I was wondering, now you being the rockabilly roots fan and player, did you have any conversations about Billy’s dad Dorsey and his uncle Johnny from the legendary Rock and Roll Trio? Were there any cool anecdotes that you could share with us?

 

RV: They were real tempestuous guys. They were doing rock and roll as we know it before Elvis. In fact, Elvis was very much influenced by the two brothers. As far as what they were doing. They were really wild and wooly guys, not pacifists by any means. They would often get it on with each other sometimes right offstage and when you hear the music it sorta reflects that. They were really some of the first guys that injected that element, of that male aggression into rock and roll. It came from those two brothers.

 

 Johnny Burnette & The Rock & Roll Trio…’Lonesome Train’

EH: Yes, you can tell from some of those songs, the vocals, that those two were wild…the emotion, that they were the real thing.

 

RV: Yes, they were really wild, wild rock and rollers.

 

Johnny Burnette & The Rock & Roll Trio…’Train Kept A Rollin”

(EH’s note: I’d like to interject a true rock and roll story here..I believe it was about 1981 or 1982 and a group of us, dressed in full rockabilly regalia, drove from Westminster to Hollywood on a weeknight to see Billy Burnette at The Whisky. I mean we had tickets way ahead of time even. Unfortunately when we got there, there was a sign posted on the door claiming that the gig was cancelled. We were all pissed off, probably had a couple beers in us, but we were loudly grumbling about this. So anyways, this older gentleman (very Mafia-like, if the mafia actually existed) approached us and apologized about the cancellation of the show. He claimed to be the owner of The Roxy nightclub and invited us in to see jazz great Gato Barbieri. Now, we had nothing against modern jazz (unless they play it too darn fast) or Gato Barbieri but we were 21 year old kids looking to rage and to pick up chicks with our tight cat clothes on! So anyways, the owner of The Roxy ushers us to the front row…and this place is packed with older very well dressed folks. I am sure people were wondering who the hell these snot nosed kids were that were being ushered right up front. Needless to say, we lasted about one or two songs and got the hell out of Dodge…and I apologize to Gato for leaving in the middle of his set, but hey, we were young and bummed and looking for action. We wanted Billy Burnette!)

RV Painting

 Rick Vito Painting by Ed Huerta

EH: Now, do you consider yourself a guitar collector and if so, what are your favorite guitars in your collection?

 

RV: I do collect guitars. My problem is hanging onto them. I don’t know how many guitars I’ve had in the course of my career. I have, you know, probably my prized guitar is a 1958 Sunburst Les Paul which in fact I have had for 20 years. This is my fourth one. I have always fallen out of love with various guitars after I’ve had them for a while and start selling or trading them for something else. I should have kept them all. That would have been the smarter thing to do being they go up in value. But yeah, I have a small but nice collection of vintage guitars.

RV:Tele
Rick at age 16 onstage at the Philadelphia Convention Hall c.1966 with his
first Telecaster…a ’61 model with a painted black guard…He says,”Wish I still
had it!”

 

EH: You also design guitars for Reverend Guitars. How did this all come about?

 

RV: When I was on tour with Seger, the “Like a Rock” tour, I had a lot of off days and I started getting into the kick of drawing guitars during the day and finally I came up with one design that I really liked and I made a scale model on paper and I took it to a guy I knew in L.A. and he built it for me and then I had another one done then I had the third one done and about 1998, about eight years later, I met Joe Naylor from Reverend Guitars and I started using one of his guitars when I was on tour with Bonnie Raitt and so he liked this one hand painted one with a stagecoach with skulls with all these kind of graphic designs, stars and planets and this and that and he said why don’t we copy all of these images and sandblast them on a guitar and it will be a combination of my design and your design so we did that and that was about 2005 and that lasted about a couple years then he said we’re going to drop this one and we’re going with a completely different line of guitars .We’re dropping all these American made guitars and we are going to make them in Korea now with a different style.

R&BR

Rick and Bonnie Raitt

A few years after that, he took some of the elements of a second and third guitar that I had done and fused them together  and came up with a couple ideas he had on his own and came up with the Rick Vito signature guitar that is out right now on Reverend Guitars.

 

EH: Is this the one with skulls on it too?

 

RV: No this one doesn’t have any skulls. We abandoned that idea. It’s sort of classy art deco almost automotive lines some people have suggested.

 

EH: Is it the cool looking sea foam green looking one?

Oceanside_Green

RV: That’s one of them we have, red, black and gold.

Metallic_Red

Black copy

Lakeshore_Gold

EH: Yes, those are really beautiful.

 

RV: Thank you.

Reverend Rick Vito Signature Guitar Demo

EH: Now you are a really talented artist…did you ever go to school for that? Or is it something that comes naturally?

 

RV: No, it’s like my guitar playing, I totally fake everything. I wanted to go to college for art and applied and they told me I wasn’t skilled enough so I do it for a hobby and I do it just to amuse myself, it comes out in different ways like designing guitars and such. (Check out Rick’s Artwork for sale at RickVito.com

Here’s a few cool examples:

Vito-Four-Guitars2                                                                                                                                                                       VitoTremelo2-300x234

 

Vito-Mondo-Mocombo2-251x300

 

EH: You were out here recently in Huntington Beach, California about a couple months ago and I was going to see you, but unfortunately, I had a gig the same night. Now do you have any plans on coming back out here to the West Coast?

 

RV: I know we are coming out to the NAMM show in January. We have plans on going to Vancouver, B.C. next weekend and after that, Ireland and then three weeks in Germany, then that brings us to October. I imagine there might be a gig in California in December certainly in January…

 

EH: Now this brings us to my last question, any upcoming shows or releases that you want to share with us?

 

RV: I have a new blues slide guitar record coming out in Germany called “Mojo on My Side” and so I will probably find someone or release it myself in the fall when I get back.

 

EH: Now I wasn’t really too hip to your music but lately I have been listening to you on Spotify and you have totally turned me into a fan and I will be purchasing some Rick Vito on Amazon and I recommend all our readers to explore some Rick Vito…you really have some great songs and I dig the vocals too! I also saw on your bio that you shared a stage with the legendary Big Joe Turner, is this true?

 

RV: Oh yeah.

 

EH: Amazing, he is one of my all-time favorite blues master.

 

EH: Well, Rick, thank you very much for this interview. I know you are a very busy man and you have had an incredible and storied career and here at jackaboutguitars we totally appreciate your kindness and generosity. Thank you very much for your time. You are truly a blues legend and a gentleman.

 

RV: Thank you very much and say “Hi” to your brother (Jack).

Rick has some cool music CD’s and DVD’s that you can get at RickVito.com    All items can be autographed by request.  He’s even got an instructional DVD on slide guitar playing which is on my list (because my slide playing has always sucked) along with a some cool other things for sale.

 

Rick Vito at Summer NAMM 2011

All photos and bio information used with permission of Rick Vito. A special thank you Rick!

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