I’ve found that the truly great musicians play music every chance they get.
For the past four years,
I've worked with Randy
Owen, lead singer for the band
Alabama. Because Alabama has
enjoyed 41 No. 1 songs and
sold over 73 million records,
there's a truckload of material
for a set list, and shows tend
to run long. Randy tries to
keep the fans happy by playing
even taking requests. One
of the cool things about the
Randy gig is that, even after
a marathon concert of two
to four hours, Randy will sit
around on his bus playing guitar
and singing. He cannot get
enough. Randy, along with the
rest of Alabama (Teddy Gentry
and Jeff Cook), is an incredibly
musical guy with a great
Last week, I was lucky enough to play a private party with the band. As I took the stage, I looked out in the crowd and saw Steven Tyler, Brad Whitford, and Joey Kramer of Aerosmith. About 35 hit songs into the set, Randy invited them onstage and handed his Strat to Whitford, who promptly ripped into that unmistakable “Walk This Way" riff while Kramer smacked out that funky groove behind me. We all joined in. Tyler started singing and moving the way only he can, and the crowd went crazy.
After an extended jam, Kramer ended the song. By this time, our set had run too long, but Whitford began riffing a greasy blues thing in E. Tyler turned to Randy and asked, “What's he playing—is this one of your songs?" Randy replied, “I have no idea—he's your guitar player!" Tyler and Randy began improvising lyrics, then Randy started scat singing and Tyler did a harmonica solo that was pure genius.
When it finally ended, we were way past quitting time. Randy said goodnight to the crowd, and the Alabama and Aerosmith guys graciously hung around and posed for photos until a road manager said, “The helicopter is waiting. We really have to go."
I packed up my gear and set out in search of a post-show beer. I walked out front to the bar, where a little country band was playing “Tulsa Time." Whitford was up there with them, playing a goldtop Les Paul with P-90s. Apparently, on the way to the chopper, he heard a groove and jumped onstage for a quick jam. Tyler was standing at the foot of the stage, watching and listening while he bobbed his head to the music. Much like a postshow Randy Owen, these guys just could not stop.
I've found that the truly great musicians play music every chance they get. It's not about the money, the fame, or the approval (although I'm sure all of these added benefits are wonderful). They do it because they need to make music.
A few more examples: I was playing a TV-show wrap party at B.B. King's Blues Club in Nashville when former Bad English singer John Waite staggered onto the stage and slurred, “N a stong, I'm ... end a Rock ... owed." Taking an educated guess, I stomped on my overdrive and launched into the Zep's “Rock and Roll." When Waite heard the riff, he suddenly became the perfect British Rock God. He literally out-sang Robert Plant's version and looked great doing it. He finished with a slam of the mic stand then stumbled off into the night. The transformation was nearly superhuman, which made for an incredible performance.
Not long after, I was playing a tip gig with a throw-together band at Tootsies in Nashville when Chad Kroeger of Nickelback walked up to the stage and stuck a century note in our tip jar. I asked, “Want to sing?" He grabbed the mic and said, “Sure. Drums, give me a ba da da, da, ba, da da, da beat. Guitar, hit a low-E chord." Kroeger began singing CCR's “Born on the Bayou" and we fell into his swampy groove. Not only did Chad lead the band through his own uniquely bluesy arrangement, but he nailed that nearly impossible Fogerty vocal line. The monitors were terrible, the soundman was nonexistent, and the band was unfamiliar— and yet he managed to pull off a jaw-dropping performance.
Two months ago, I was musical director for a multi-act benefit where American Idol winner Kris Allen was slated to sing three of his songs with the band. After a long day of travel and soundcheck, Allen gave a great performance. After the event, those of us in the house band were contracted to do a two-hour dance set, while the stars were free to leave. I saw Allen hanging out by the side of the stage. I gave him a shout out and he immediately jumped onstage, grabbed an extra guitar, and led us through five or six classic country covers. Given his pop-star status, it was amazing to witness his encyclopedic knowledge of country music. Despite his long day and early flight out in the morning, it was remarkable that he chose to jam for free rather than get some much-needed sleep.
In early August, I was recording in Greece when the band I was working with was invited to a dinner party at Vangelis' house in Athens. (Vangelis is the Greek composer best known for his scores for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner.) We arrived about 10 p.m. Appetizers lasted until 11. Dinner took us past midnight. Desert and coffee lasted until 1 a.m. By then, I was deliriously tired and eager to leave because I had a 7 a.m. international flight the next day. Then Vangelis invited us into his living room, which had two grand pianos, a few harps, a PA, some guitars, and a keyboard. He sat at the keyboard and said, “Come play." Somebody handed me a guitar, our keyboard player, Ty Bailey, sat at one of the grands, and we improvised for over an hour, moving seamlessly from one cinematic, trance-inducing melody to another. Vangelis was excited to play—like a little kid. I think he staged the lavish party just to get a few people to play with him.
Forgive the shameless name-droppery, but these firsthand experiences illustrate a point: The common denominator in phenomenal musicians is their absolute love of playing music. They are sensational because they do it all the time. It truly is about the music.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star, the 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over one hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.