By Don Menn
From beer bar and food stamp days a few years ago, the Doobie Brothers—a northern California rock ensemble—has skyrocketed into headlining coliseum gigs and acquiring property such as the old Bank Of America building in San Francisco. Their string of singles— "Listen To The Music," “Long Train Runnin’,” "China Grove," "Black Water"—may not have gone gold for sales in excess of one million dollars, nevertheless, they pushed three Doobie albums beyond the gold and into the platinum realm. Toulouse Street [Warner Brothers, 2364], The Captain And Me [Warner, 2694] and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits [Warner, W-2750] all registered sales in excess of one million copies.
Besides drummers John Hartman and Keith Knudsen, the Doobies at present include keyboardist Michael McDonald and four guitar players: Tom Johnston, who wrote and sang lead on the majority of the group's earlier releases, comes from a background of blues, soul, and Mexican wedding bands; Pat Simmons first branched out of his folk guitar orientation when he teamed up with Johnston, and today takes a primary role in the writing of Doobie numbers; Jeff Baxter is a former Steely Dan member who continues to do a great deal of session and tour work with individuals as diverse as James Taylor, Elton John, and Hoyt Axton; Tiran Porter, who assumes the role of bassist, was a veteran of numerous Southern California groups before he joined a San Francisco band called Scratch where he first worked with Pat Simmons.
How did you guys get started in music?
Tom: I started out oil the clarinet at seven, and I played that for eight years. I also played the saxophone for three years, drums for a year and a half, and took up the guitar when I was in the seventh grade. That was pretty much of a rebellion trip. But I hated that damn clarinet. I loved the saxophone; it was a gas. I played tenor and alto and baritone. Baritone and tenor were the most fun, but unfortunately, when I hung the clarinet up, I hung up all that stuff and just started playing guitar, and I never touched them again. I don't know anything on them anymore. I just taught myself guitar and a little piano that I picked up on my own. I played piano on the first album [The Doobie Brothers, Warner, S-1919], and a little harmonica on a few others.
Pat: I got interested in music when I was about eight years old. A friend of mine across the street played the guitar. His folks were Oakies and were really kind of into country music, and he turned me on to it.
Jeff: At first I was a classical pianist, and I took up the guitar to rebel against my parents. I was five years old when I first started taking piano lessons, and I was ten when I started the guitar.
Tiran: I started out trying to play guitar and couldn't do it. I was about fifteen. And so I started playing bass around the bottom four strings, and a friend of mine who I was messing around with musically at the time said, "Hey, why don't you play bass." So I did.
What were your first guitars?
Tom: Mine was an arch-back Harmony with f-holes. After that I got a Kay single-pickup electric with amplifier. I used to sit by that amp about a foot away and stick my ear in it and listen to it. I liked the way it thumped.
Pat: My first guitar was "made in Japan" [laughs]. The back eventually warped right off, so I got rid of it, and replaced it with a regular folk-type guitar, a Harmony or something. Later, I threw that over for another steel string.
Jeff: Mexico was where I was living, and I bought a cheap guitar with a Kent pickup for sixteen dollars. I had an Alamo amp with two 8" speakers and a 4" speaker. My first steel guitar was a Fender 400. All it had was three floor pedals and eight strings in an A sixth tuning. I started messing around with it, and realized I wasn't in the ball park, so I got a to-string with an E ninth tuning. Then I bought the Emmons doubleneck with four knee levers, and four pedals. It really had the versatility I was looking for. Then Sierra came with up levers, so I put a couple of those on.
Tiran: I bought myself a Tesco bass, and a Silvertone amplifier, the old type piggyback.
Did you have lessons?
Tom: No, I learned all by ear. Never had a guitar lesson in my life, though I did learn how to play barre chords from a cat that took me aside when I said I didn't know how. But I must say, I'm really a Podunk guitar player of sorts as far as knowing scales. I mean, I know positions and stuff, but if I learn a new chord that's really off-the-wall, I couldn't tell you what it was probably.
Pat: I'm mostly self-taught, but when I was about ten or eleven I took lessons off and on for maybe a year from a lady who didn't teach me as much guitar as she did how to sing, how to read music, and the basics of music. She taught me a little guitar, but I could play almost as good as she could. So it wasn't a formal guitar training really. Then, when I was fourteen or fifteen, I took lessons from a guy named Bill Munday. He taught me bossa nova guitar playing, jazz, and popular guitar. And at the same time, I used to hang out at all the clubs and all the coffee houses around my area and do folk blues—that was the big thing. When I. was going to school in San Jose, I remember one summer, every day I'd open my Mickey Baker Jazz Book [Lewis Music, 263 Veterans Blvd., Carlstadt, NJ 07072] and worked on it for an hour. It was fantastic; it's able to turn you into a good jazz guitar player just from the text, and there aren't too many books that can really do that. I never actually got into it as heavily as I should have. I think I got to Lesson Seven or something, and hung it up because I was busy doing other things. But if somebody sat down and went through the whole book, he'd be a hell of a guitar player.
Jeff: I kept on taking the piano 'til I was fifteen, but I forgot most of it. But my approach to music is from a keyboard. I had harmony, counterpoint, theory—everything that goes along with taking a lot of piano. I studied for two years in school, and I studied trumpet for three years, and that's about it. I got free lessons on guitar for a couple of years, when a friend of mine in the apartment downstairs was taking them. Everyday that he would have a lesson he would come up to my place and show me what he'd just learned. He ended up becoming a YMCA swimming instructor.
Tiran: I learned mostly by ear, listening to the radio, listening to people and watching anyone. I learned from everybody, and I used to practice seven hours a day. I went back to the guitar later on and taught myself how to play that and a little bit of keyboard here and there.
Who were your early influences?
Tom: At the start I took off playing Jimmy Reed stuff, and then I went into playing rock and roll and blues. I was mostly brought up around blues and soul music, and I've always been a blues/soul man. After a while, I got into acoustic blues—cats like Robert Johnson, though I can't play slide, and I can't play like him. I just got off listening to it. When I played blues, it's always been stuff like B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, and James Cotton. I had a musical background of everybody from Bo Diddley on, all those cats who only played rhythm, so I've always had a real strong rhythm background. I just listened to them and picked up what I heard, and then tried to learn to go on to licks of my own. I'd say I blossomed a lot just learning different ways to play the guitar and different kinds of music when I moved up here [to the Bay area] from the central valley, because I took up playing folk and other things which I had just never even opened the door to before since I'd just been into soul and blues and jazz. A number of times I worked at night in a place where Pat worked called the Wine Cellar while I was working in canneries in the day. I got into writing my own folk tunes from having listened to people like Bob Dylan and a lot of others; but call it stubborn or whatever, I've always just tried to pick it up on my own. I should actually be a little more receptive to outside influences and try to improve constantly.
Pat: My influences came from people like Leo Kottke, the Rev. Gary Davis, all that stuff. Now I listen to all kinds of different music, and there are a lot of people that really inspire me as opposed to really influence me, like Jim Messina and Kenny Loggins. They have a rapport similar to Tom and me. I'd say that they inspire the whole band. We've played a lot of dates with them, and they've had an effect on us.
Jeff: The Ventures were my first big influence. I wrote to their fan club. I said I want to be a lead guitar player like Bob Bagel, what do I do? They sent me a letter, and they told me to buy a Fender Jazzmaster. So I ran out to my music store and got one, and I still have it hanging on my wall. It's one of the old ones with the gold and aluminum pickguards. Anyway, I started learning Ventures tunes. It's funny, people put them down. But considering where guitar was then, if you could play that kind of music, it really taught you how to play rhythm guitar. You learned how to play quietly and steady. Then I heard Buddy Emmons one day on the radio playing steel guitar, and I said, I got to buy me a steel guitar, which I did—the one I mentioned. I really got my first big boost when somebody in Mexico gave me a copy of that Howard Roberts Is A Dirty Guitar Player album [Capitol, C-1961]. That's when I really got into the instrument and what it could do. Howard Roberts was a super big influence on myself and Elliot Randall, too. Both of us come from two different spots, but we both dug Howard's playing. He's a great, funky player. He even influences my steel guitar playing a whole lot, because when I think of the way to voice chords, I still think of his voicings a lot in my head. I've been into jazz for a while, but I wish I could clean up my chops, learn something on the real outer fringes of melodic improvisation.
What sort of guitars are you using?
Tom: I've been using a Flying V, and an old '56 Les Paul that I had rebuilt with double hotrod humbuckings, and new tuners, and all that stuff. I also have a '54 Les Paul that I bought just like it is. Mostly on stage I've been using an LS-6, the Flying V, and the Les Paul. I also bought a Rico Seagull with two hotrod pickups, a coil-splitter, a pilot switch like the L-16 switch, power boost switch, and its six different controls. It's a really, really nice axe: nice work, good neck that goes through the body, and really beautiful body. I've also got an Alembic at home that's really fine, but I haven't been using it much. For acoustic I've been using a Martin D-28, and I used to have an old Gibson J-50. I had the Gibson since I was a sophomore in high school, but it got ripped-off about a year ago. And I got a 1955 Guild Acoustic jumbo that I like, but they didn't like the sound of it in the studio, so I went back to using the Martin.
Pat: All Gibson ES335s . A Gibson 345 was the standard guitar that I used to use for leads and regular chording. It's a stereo, and I've disconnected its varitone, which is kind of a limiter and enables you to get a Fender sound or like a thin sound out of the guitar, but I never could get behind the sounds, really. If I want a sound like a Fender, I'd rather playa Fender guitar. With it disconnected I get more power, and a cleaner sound. And then I've got an ES-335 that I've got tuned to a modal D; starting from the bottom up that's D, A, D, D, A, D. I also use an Ovation acoustic electric which I have tuned to an open G. The guitar's bridge is a pickup itself, and it's the only acoustic that I play, unless I use a Barcus-Berry or a FRAP or something that really sounds like an acoustic guitar electrified. I have a FRAP, but I can't get the volume that I can get out of the Ovation, which is also more compact since the pickup is built right into the guitar. It's simpler. It sounds really similar to an acoustic guitar, and it's better than putting a pickup on an acoustic. And then I got a regular electric Firebird tuned to an open G, too, that I use for a couple of things. Saves me time. We used to just tune on stage [laughs], while the audience was just waiting, yelling "Boooo!" It'd take us a couple of minutes between tunes, but now I can just put one guitar down and grab another. I use my 345 for most of the recordings. But I also use the 335, an old Gibson Hummingbird for acoustic, a Martin D-28, and a Gibson ES-135. We combine acoustics with electrics a lot of times to get a bigger sound.
Jeff: I use a homemade Telecaster and Stratocaster that I built to look like Fenders, and a Dan Armstrong guitar. I like Fender's shape and form, but I like the way I do it better. I bought the wood, cut the bodies and the necks, and wound my own pickups—everything. For steel I'm using Emmons most of the time with different kinds of pickups, and I've also been using the Sierra and Sho-Bud. For acoustic I use a Guild F-30, and a ShoBro dobra.
Tiran: I got a '59 Gibson Thunderbird bass, an EB 3L Gibson, a Rickenbacker—one of the newer models—, an Alembic bass, and a Fender Precision '58.
What sort of amps are you using?
Tom: I'm using a Fender Super now. For a while I used Marshall stacks, and Ampeg V4s. I had a Sunn Coliseum for one gig, and I told them to go throw it out the window of the house. And I use a Mesa/Boogie and a 1956 Concert Bottom. Speakers would be like one 12" and four 10s. I used that for two tours. Those Mesas are good little amps. I got two of them! I got one for the road that's covered in white, and one that's mahogany. The Mesa's got a switch, so you can get either 65 or 100 watts. In the studio I've always used Supers, as well as a Princeton, Deluxe, Super, and an old white Bandmaster.
Pat: I use a 100-watt Ampeg. I got two bottoms with four 12s each. In the studio I've used a lot of different amps: a Fender Super with four 10s a lot, a Champ for listening to music, and a Bandmaster.
Jeff: I use Delta [8828 Lankersheim, Sun Valley, CA 91352]. The company asked me to consult, so I've been working on it for the past couple of years. I always wanted to have an amplifier that did everything, and it does, though the first delivery, kaboom! I blew it up. It has the use of 8-track tape cartridge for built-in tape echo and presets for different amps, so if you want to have a tone contour for whatever amp, you just punch it up. It's also got repeat, mix, and delay and an echo-out so that you can delay its free reverb from another amplifier. It's got everything I could ever want. It's 300-watt RMS; or if you want 150-watts, you just pull out one of the upper tubes. They're designed for four 10s in an open cabinet and two 12s in a closed cabinet. I just use closed cabinets, because the amps are in front of us, so you don't play at very low volume to get the sound you want. In the studio, I use an old Fender Bandmaster with three 10s. Tommy and I both have been using it and getting really good luck with it. And for steel, I use a Vox Super Beatle head transistorized with one 15" JBL. It has a real fine sound, just the right sound. With Steely Dan I used Fender Twin Reverbs.
Tiran: I've only been using two types of amplifiers: Acoustic 360s for a long time, and now I've switched to an Ampeg SVT with two Fender four-by-twelve bottoms.
Where do you set the tone and volume controls on your amps and guitars?
Tom: Gibson guitars are notoriously bottomy, low end. They don't have a whole lot of highs, unless the volume is all the way up. That's when you get your best highs. You turn the guitar down, and you cut your highs which ain't too hot. Consequently, I leave the treble on full playing about 7 or 8. On the guitars, it varies all over the place. I just get into where it sounds best.
Pat: For me it depends upon what I'm playing. If it's a lighter rock tune, then we usually set them in the middle at 5 or 6 for a cleaner type sound. For something heavy we just jack it all the way. For the lead you want it for sustain. On stage I don't use half the power of the amp. I only turn it a little over 7, and the Ampeg's powerful enough so that you don't really have to use much of the power. When it gets about halfway up, to the ear it doesn't really change that much. I alter my volume a lot on the guitar. My toggle switches vary, too.
Jeff: I used to have stock settings, but now I have so much tone variation in my amp, that I'm constantly changing it. The idea of the amplifier is to recreate the studio sound live, so I try to remember as much as I can what it was like and recreate that sound, so I'm usually changing my tone all the time.
Tiran: On my amp I set volume on four, full board on the bass, midrange about three-quarters of the way; treble three-quarters. On the bass, I use five on both tone and volume.
What about distortion devices and pedals?
Tom: No distortion devices. Oh sometimes I use a Mutron on stage and an Echoplex, which I don't really like. What I'd essentially like to get is an octave splitter that would work the same way Eddie Harris gets his sound for his saxophone. I used to use a Maestro phase shifter and a wah-wah for just a little while which I really didn't like—still don't like it very much. Got it mainly because I heard that everybody and his dad and brother were playing it.
Pat: I use a Maestro phasing unit on stage a lot for different effects. I get a Leslie sound if I hit a fast turning sound. Sometimes I use the slower effect just to get a kind of textural sound. It's like halfway between a Leslie and a phasing effect. I used to try a sustain thing, but I don't really like the sound. They seem too artificial. I got into wah-wahs a little bit, but it's so overdone that I just can't get behind it. I don't sound any different using a wah-wah than anybody else, so I decided that's it. I sound more individual playing my guitar straight than using all those other things. Jeff: Nothing. I used to use a wah-wah, and I got a bag of tricks because on sessions you get asked for certain things, but I don't like to use them.
Tiran: I only use them at home. I'd rather play bass on stage than anything else. It's nice trying to use effects, but a lot of times it just doesn't work out live. You do better to try it under more controlled circumstances.
What sort of strings are each of you using?
Tom: I use Fender light gauge: .009, .012, .013, .017, .024, .032, .046.
Pat: I use telephone wires [laughs]. I've got pretty heavy gauge. I tried using really light for a while and had a lot of trouble with them going out of tune. Playing with fingerpicks you tend to hit the strings a lot harder, and since there's no give to the pick at all, they're just solid and so it tends to knock it out of tune a little faster, especially while strumming with a thumbpick. It's hard, and I get no give at all, so I went to heavier strings; .013, .015, .018 unwound, and .026, .036, and .046. The make varies. I have to say that most strings made today are rotten. They really are not well made, and I don't know if that's because there's a shortage of metal, or a shortage of alloy, or what. It used to be I could put a set of strings on my guitar, and they'd still sound pretty good even months later, even a year later. I wouldn't break them. But it gets to the point now that I break strings constantly, and a lot of guitar players who are using really light strings, like Tommy, break a string almost every night. I'm pretty good. I don't break them quite as often, but I've had troubles. I've tried everything. I've tried Fenders, Darcos, Ernie Balls, and they all break. I've got the feeling that inflation has caused that. I hate to accuse manufacturers of this, but I think perhaps they're making a little cheaper strings so that they'll break a little sooner, and you'll have to buy new ones a little sooner.
Jeff: Fender rock and roll light gauge, because they're easy to find. For tunings on steel I use E ninth, Nashville tuning. There's two different changes on the knee levers: G# to a G natural, and—instead of the third pedal—I have the left knee lever left raising the E to an F#. For other tunings, I use the C sixth on one of my guitars, and on my new steels, I'll be using E diatonic. There's a tuning that Red Rhodes came up with one afternoon—he has a 10-string dobro that he tuned to E diatonic, so we figured we'd try it on a steel and see what happened, and it turned out to be a dynamite tuning. It's E diatonic up to the last two strings, which are F# and G#.
Tiran: I use Rotosound light gauge, round-wound and a German brand string I can't remember the name of right offhand. When I use the Fender in the studio, I use flat-wound strings. Our producer doesn't like the sound of round ones; too much like piano strings for him, but I like the piano strings.
How often do you change your strings?
Tom: Every gig. In the studio not as often, because they're not being played as much and as heavily. On stage I'd had a tendency to bend the strings so much that I used to break them incessantly, which was really a pain. That's why I finally took up changing them every night. But I've tried to learn to pick a little less violently and not bend the string so wretchedly. I still do it, but I haven't been breaking strings hardly at all.
Pat: I don't have much problem with breaking them, so I change my strings once a month, or once every couple of months.
Jeff: I got a problem with really acidic hands ruining my strings and leaving little mountains or beards on the tone control, so I change them a lot.
Tiran: I change my strings about once every tour.
What sort of flatpicks do you use?
Tom: I always use Herco medium because they don't break, and they take forever to wear out. Actually the worst thing you can do with a Herco is lose it. There's no way to screw it up. Oh, if you chew on them a lot really nervously, they get kind of weird. But I lose them all the time, though I might hold on to a pick for as long as a month. It will get worn down, but I don't really notice the difference until I pick up a brand new one because it's more pointed when you attack the string. Doesn't make any difference. I can't use fingerpicks or any kind of plastic pick like that because I get really sweaty hands. In fact, I usually eat the nickel off the strings right down to the brass.
Jeff: Mostly I use Dobro picks. Most steel players use two fingers and a thumb. I use three fingers and a thumb because I like to stretch my voicings. For bars, I have two Ernie Balls, the heavy one and the light one. For a slow song, I like to get more tone, and the heavier bar obviously has more tone, and the lighter bar is easier to move around when I play fast things.
Tiran: I play with a pick only occasionally. Generally I go with my two fingers.
How do you practice now?
Tom: My way is just to sit home and play, sometimes with a record player, though I've been using a TEAC to write tunes a lot. I'll lay down one track of guitar, and then I'll add a bass and sometimes piano and acoustic guitar, and play lead over it.
Jeff: What I try to do is spend enough time in the studios in L.A. when I'm off the road to keep my chops up, and when I'm on the road I practice because there's nothing else to do. That's my way of practicing.
Tell me something about your right and left hand techniques.
Tom: Well, I use my little finger to play chords, but I don't use it playing solos. The direction in which I bend a string depends on where the string I'm bending is on the neck. The lower strings are going to be pulled down, and the high strings are going to be pushed up. I use a lot of vibrato when I play solo. And for picking, it has to be up and down if you want to do a lot of speed. It's also better for clarity. Anything faster than quarter notes, you either have to use alternating picking or play with a regular flatpick and fingers. I do that a lot. That's something I developed since I've been in this band. For harmonics I use thumb and pick both at the same time. Where I hold my pick depends on the solo. I used to play on the bridge all the time, and then I got away from that, and I played in between, and sometimes on the bridge to mute the strings and get a deadened tone.
Pat: Me, too. I use a plastic pick, and I just touch it or leave it on the string. Just barely touch it with the pick. As far as chording goes, a lot of the ones I play are things like I made up myself, though I'm sure they're chords that other people made up long before me. But they're chords I've sort of invented along the way, and they're offshoots of the regular first-position. In fact, this is the basis for a lot of our playing: very simple type chords. But I like the open sound when playing the guitar, and I try to use as many open strings as possible when I'm playing chords, because you get a bolder sound out of your guitar. I love that full sound. Tunings are really nice sometimes because they get a really full sound. Like if in a G tuning I can use the open Gs and Ds to complement a lot of the different chords I'm playing.
Jeff: I pick over certain harmonies in the string to get different tones. If I want to hear a fifth, I usually play right in between the neck and the bridge. If I want the third harmonic mostly for rhythm, you know, for a real full sound, I usually play kind of near the bridge. And if I try to do the softer jazz kind of thing, I usually play up right over the fingerboard. And I use my little finger. But steel is funny. There's much more of a bell-like tone the farther away you get from the bridge up to a certain point. I just try to match the distance from the bar and my hand all the time to keep a fairly consistent tone in the instrument, because it really changes, if you move your hand back and forth. My technique is pretty standard, and I use a wide vibrato most of the time. For 6-string, I use both kinds of vibrato—finger and wrist—depending on whether it's a "screamer" or a "nicer," and I use my thumb against the pick to accentuate harmonics. You do this by snapping the pick and blocking the string back near the bridge over a fifth or a third or a seventh to get at the harmonics above the string that you're playing. In other works, if you are playing an E on the G string, and you slap it, you get an E or you get a G# an octave above. Tom does that, too. You snap the string off the pick and dampen it with your thumb.
Tiran: I can't really explain what I do. I just do it. I just play.
How do you work out your music?
Tom: It just sort of happens. Everything in this band always seems to kind of happen about who does what when—whatever feels right at the time. The person that writes the song lays down the basic concept of the tune in each position and adds what he thinks would lend itself to the song. And then it builds and builds until you got it structured to where each person is playing a part, and each person is adding their certain element to the song, and when it comes out as a whole, that's what makes this group sound as it does. From the very start, the fact that Pat fingerpicked and had the folk blues style of playing the guitar, and I was more into the other styles of playing the guitar, was what initially made our sound. Then when Jeffrey came in he had a lot of jazz riffs, played steel guitar, and added all these colorful tones to the music which makes us progress as musicians, and also makes the music progress.
Pat: There's usually a basic formula for each tune. There's other times when we just stretch out and jam till it feels like we should go back into the tune. Usually we have points within the tune that enables all to play together and hit points together, and there are points where it is just totally spaced out, and we do whatever we want to do. Our band is set up really well, because everybody has a particular gig they do. It's like textures is what's happening. In certain tunes I play the leads. Because of my background, it works really good. Especially with the open tuning, I get a lot of really full chordal trips happening behind the lead, so it works really good. We do a lot of rhythm things. That's why we originally had two drummers, because of our rhythm thing. Tom was really into hot sounding riffs, and I'd do a lot of fingerpicking and rhythm playing. So it was a counterpoint thing. He had a drummer kicking one way, and I had a drummer kicking another, and so it worked but really good. Jeff adds a whole other element, and the bass is, of course, the bottom, and it's consistent with everything else that's happening. Tom tends to be more sketchy with stuff he brings in, and works it out all at rehearsal, listens to what others are doing, takes it home, and works on it until he gets it like he wants. I tend to get it down on tape. It's easier than writing it out. It's been the thing that made the band click all along: our styles blended perfectly.
Jeff: I only play steel on a few songs, so usually when we play, one guy plays lead, and the other two are doing rhythm. But there have been things that we did like "Neal's Fandango" [Stampede, Warner, 2835] which were definitely a working out of a melodic line between two guitar players that's strictly the same all the time, that's voiced through a chord. What we did was syncopate a melody line, and start on a third, and then went to a fifth, and then played the whole thing two tones apart for a while, and then joined playing the same line. In other words, we started from voicings that were far away and worked our way into a single voicing—it compressed itself. We got a lucky situation in that there's three guitar players in the band, and every guy plays really different. It's like having a guitar lesson every time we play together. There's so much music going on you can't help but pick it up. Like I finally learned how to play the blues listening to Tom, and I've learned how to fingerpick listening to Patrick. Stuff that I would never even have been exposed to had I sat at my house, or played in a jazz band, or some TV show band.
Tom: You learn from everybody you play with—that's very true. It's a growing experience every time you're opened up to another player who has a different style. Jeff certainly has a different style from mine, and Pat is a very good fingerpicker.
Jeff: Tom is really a good guitarist, and Patrick is one of the most underrated players in the country for the simple reason that he plays a nonstandard rock style of guitar. But his fingerpicking approach is a valid form of rock and roll. He has managed to combine styles, making his sound a lot more melodic than most blues guitar players and yet still come out with power, which is what turned me onto his guitar playing in the first place. I couldn't believe a guy could do that.
Tiran: He's the only one.
Jeff: Mr. Unique. And Ti doesn't just emphasize the fundamentals. He's one of the few melodic bass players—that really plays the instrument with melody in mind. He'll get down to the bass drum pattern, but he'll also play melodies. If you get four string players to all play the right kind of melody, you can create some really nice stuff.
Originally appeared in Guitar Player magazine, June 1976