BY 1988, WHAT MIGHT BE termed the “first wave” of Spotlight discoveries—Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, etc.—was already fairly well established in the guitar playing universe. But Mike Varney still had a few amazing players waiting in the wings, including Greg Howe. Varney was impressed enough that he not only featured Howe in the column, he offered him a deal on his Shrapnel label. Whereas other Spotlight rockers might have blended classical, pop, or blues with their monster chops, Howe brought some funk and R&B to the party as well as killer rhythm chops to go along with his burning lead lines. He would go on to become not just a star on Shrapnel, but also work as a sideman to the stars and a fresh new voice in the fusion world before getting back to his melodic rock roots with his new band Maragold.
“I read Spotlight back in the day,” says Howe, “so I was aware of Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine, and Vinnie Moore, and I knew they were all phenomenal players. When I sent my tape in, I didn’t expect to get featured, let alone be offered a record deal. I didn’t even have songs, because I had never written instrumental music. I basically just sent grooves that I could blow over. What I did do was send one package to Varney and another directly to the magazine via FedEx, knowing that someone would have to physically sign for it. I figured that would increase my chances, and it worked because I got a call the very next day.
“My life changed pretty quickly after that, because even before the column came out, I had to learn how to write instrumental songs and submit demos to Mike for his approval. He had already gotten Billy Sheehan to agree to play on the album, and we had a deal with Fender for the HM Strat, so by the time the album came out there was already a buzz.
“Sometime later I met Jennifer Batten at a NAMM show and she said she was thinking about stepping off the Michael Jackson tour and thought I would be the ideal candidate to fill in for her. It was pretty scary. I got the call on a Monday night and they needed me to begin performing that Wednesday in Amsterdam. That led to me getting the Enrique Iglesias gig, then ’N Sync, and then Justin Timberlake went solo and took me along.
“I quit all that in 2004 to get back to being Greg Howe the artist. I knew I was going to have to change stylistically, incorporating fusion and jazz and more sophisticated harmony. I did a record with Victor Wooten and Dennis Chambers and some stuff with Richie Kotzen and Dennis Chambers. But I’ve always been a guy that loves playing in vocal bands, and the singer I’ve found for my new band Maragold is just amazing, so this almost feels like getting back where I belong.”