Jason Becker on Creativity: Steve Hunter, Pt. 1

I left Cacophony when I was 19.
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I left Cacophony when I was 19. It was kind of a scary decision to make, but I really needed to explore all of my musical ideas without any distractions. In addition to the modern classical stuff, I was writing more poppy, guitar-heavy songs, in which I could have my personality and style come through. Mike Varney loved them and got me in David Lee Roth’s band. Although I had been limping for a few months, even while touring with Cacophony, it was a fantastic time.

When I first moved down to Southern California, I didn’t have a place to stay. Sometimes I would stay in Dave’s condo above Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, sometimes at my grandpa’s (actor Wayne Heffley) house, and sometimes at my dear friend Miko’s house.

Producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss) introduced me to Steve Hunter, who I had never heard before. Even though I had always loved blues players, and had my own style, I needed some blues lessons to bring me back down to earth. I went to Steve’s apartment in Hollywood. (You could see the Hollywood sign from the street.) At first I think we were both a little cautious, because we wondered if the other was going to be a snob. He said, “I don’t know what I can teach you.” I liked that! I played some guitar for him. I never got nervous playing guitar, but now I was shaking. We started talking, and we found a common love for Stevie Ray Vaughan.

He got excited and put on the Albert King vinyl album, Years Gone By. A few years prior, my uncle Ron had taken me to see B.B. King and Albert together in concert. Albert must have been off that night, because B.B. grabbed me way more than Albert did. But this Albert album from 1969—the year I was born—was killing me! Steve got off on how emotional I was about it. The way Albert yanked the strings and made little melody lines inside of one pluck of the string while bending to different notes with one finger really got my heart thumping. I think this is when Steve and I started our bromance!

We started hanging out a lot. We would constantly crack each other up. Man, Steve is one funny mofo! He taught me some Ted Greene-type harmonics and some great jazz/blues chord turnarounds. You can hear me messing with this stuff on my Hot Licks DVD, or on You- Tube after my clean version of “Drop in the Bucket.” I would play him things I was working on, and he would give valuable advice. He was a blues master with so much soul and feeling, and I wanted to soak it all up. We loved and respected each other’s playing and music. A true musician finds beauty in the best of all types of musical expression.

I grew up with an artist/poet father who played classical guitar and both my parents thought that being a good artist was the highest calling. Steve just fit right in with my family. He and his lovely wife, Karen, often visit these days. We have a blast and make each other laugh with our nasty sense of humor. Steve gives my dad guitar lessons, and I learn a lot too.

Jason Becker is a composer and guitarist whose work can be heard on his solo albums, and with Cacophony and David Lee Roth. Check out this sexy man’s story in the award-winning documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.