When Jeff Pevar landed a dream gig playing lead guitar for the late, great soul-jazz legend Ray Charles in the Eighties, the guitarist soon developed a fun little game to play each night onstage.
“I learned early on that I could get Mr. Charles to squiggle and scream in delight if I played the the right blues note or blues phrase,” says Pevar, who has also played for such headliners as David Crosby, Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, and Phil Lesh. “So, I’d basically be out to get him every time I took a solo. The goal was to play something he really liked. If you could do that, he’d squeal and say something like, ‘Ow! You nasty boy!’“
As Pevar strived each night be the most “soulful mofo” possible on stage with Charles, and as the game continued night after night, he began to realize something:
“I soon noticed that it was the licks I played that had the most amount of space and the least amount of notes in them that would get the man squiggling in his chair,” Pevar says. “What an epiphany that was for a young guitar player!”
These quotes are taken straight from Pevar’s in-depth interview on Guitar Player magazine’s new and free audio podcast, No Guitar Is Safe, which you can find on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
One exciting part about listening to the podcast is that Pevar has a guitar in his hands the whole time—even, at one point, an old Oahu lap steel—so he colors his stories with actual playing to demonstrate what he’s talking about.
For instance, regarding the guitar game discussed above, Pevar—with show host Jude Gold playing rhythm guitar—demonstrates a couple of choruses of Charles-approved soloing over a slow 12-bar blues (soon after the 20-minute mark on the episode).
The two also jam on grooves from Earth, Wind & Fire and Jeff Beck, as well as stretch out on a “cave jam”—a song improvised spontaneously, as all the songs were on Pevar’s new solo album, From the Core, which the guitarist recorded basic tracks for in caves in Oregon.
Catch Pevar and Jazz Is Dead—his all-star Grateful Dead tribute, featuring bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report), drummer Rod Morgenstein (the Dregs), and keyboardist Chris Smith (Jefferson Starship)—at the Sausalito Art Festival Saturday, September 5, just across the water from San Francisco. Jude Gold will also perform that day with Jefferson Starship.
And if you really want to see what Pevar is talking about regarding getting Ray Charles to “squiggle in his chair,” this classic concert video of Charles and Pevar captures it perfectly.
To subscribe to No Guitar Is Safe on iTunes, click the link below: