Ricky Phillips of Styx

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If I asked you to name a Styx song, I bet within two seconds you could spout one off: “Renegade,” “Lady,” “Crystal Ball,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Too Much Time On My Hands.” Still touring, still selling out venues large and small, Styx was an iconic band of the 1970’s that remains still relevant in today’s classic rock touring scene. When Styx comes to town, their dedicated fans continue to go.

Styx happens to be one of those quintessential bands that stir up memories of adolescent freedom and days spent daydreaming while listening to albums all the way through, both sides, without ever having to be somewhere else. Maybe that is the reason their concerts are as popular as ever; or maybe it’s simply because the band knows how to rock, long past their long haired jean jacket day and into an age bracket we never even knew existed back in those carefree 70’s.

So as 2014 starts creaking towards the spring following way too much snow, Styx is preparing a BIG tour with some of their good-time buddies – Foreigner and former Eagles guitar player Don Felder. Dubbed The Soundtrack Of Summer Tour, it kicks off on May 16 in Oklahoma City and runs through the nation till the end of July. With Styx and Foreigner trading headlining slots, no matter which night you go, it’s guaranteed to be one hell of a show.

Last week, Ricky Phillips, bass player for Styx for the past ten years, called up to talk with me about the upcoming tour and his longtime career. Those who may not be familiar with Phillips outside of the Styx circle, may not realize he was in another big ‘70’s band called The Babys; or that from their ashes came Bad English, who was even more popular with a breakthrough hit debut album in the summer of 1989. Phillips has also been a sought-after studio and touring musician, playing with Coverdale/Page and Belinda Carlisle. But Styx has become his home.

So from somewhere out on the road – “At first you try and memorize [the schedule] but at this point, I can’t remember where I was yesterday much less where I am in two weeks,” Phillips said with a laugh. “But it’s fun and it keeps us off the street.” -  and following three interviews in a row, Phillips shared some special insight into his music and his career.

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Your big summer tour with Foreigner and Don Felder was just announced. What can the fans expect?

It’s a pretty cool combination. None of the bands sound alike but they all three are very melodic and I think that’s something that is a little different. I mean, we’ve done shows with Foreigner before and we’ve done a couple with Don, but doing a full three-band bill like this, I think it’s really cool, a lot of bang for your buck in a concert like this, in my opinion, because there’s a lot of really nice vocals, a lot of really great melodies, good songwriting, and for me, that’s what keeps my attention. I can hang for just so long with watching people shred, and I love to watch those guys, virtuosity musicians, but if you’re going to keep my attention for that long during the night, I’ve got to hear material. It’s got to be based on good material and all three of these bands have extraordinary material. Don Felder, being co-writer on my two favorite Eagles songs, which is “Hotel California” and “Victim Of Love.” “Victim Of Love” is probably one of my most favorite Eagles songs. But Don, you’ll see why he was so important to the Eagles just by watching him perform and hearing him play guitar. Super talent, extraordinary talent, so it’s going to be a good night of music.

They tell me, that combined, these three bands have sold over 250 million albums worldwide. That is a staggering number.

Wow, I didn’t even know that but I guess it makes sense. These are bands that have continued to get airplay for over thirty years. So when you think about it, there’s the initial release of an album when it makes probably it’s most sales but then it keeps on selling year after year after year, with a new audience. We’ve seen our audience get younger and younger over the past ten years and I’m sure they have as well. There’s such a cool resurgence of people going back and listening to the music that, I suppose, influenced artists today and some of the bands that are touring still, like ours, will get that young audience coming out to see what you are all about. It’s fun to see, it’s great.

One of the things we get to do, usually it’s in August and sometimes September maybe, is state fairs around the country. When you go and do those shows the cool little thing about that, the little caveat that people forget about, is you get to play for young people. A lot of times at these fairs, as long as you buy a ticket to get into the fair, you can come to the show, and that’s how we reach new generations year after year and it is a lot of fun for us to look out and see. It could be eight year old kids out there. And the next few years, they’re coming and holding up Styx signs or wearing Styx t-shirts and you look down, and people say, “Do you ever notice the crowd? Do you really see the audience from up there?” And we do. And you might not notice somebody the first time you see them but if somebody shows up two and three times and they’re fighting their way up to the front, you remember them. We know people in their twenties, men and women, who we’ve seen come to see the show since they were eight/nine/ten/eleven/twelve years old. It’s a very cool symbiotic thing and I like to say that the audience is kind of like the fifth Beatle. They are very much a part of the energy of our show. It’s a reciprocal thing. We go out there and do our show but when the audience becomes a little bit ravenous and lets the energy level grow along with the music and along with the set, that pushes us. It becomes this intangible x-factor that makes it into a special show.

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I was going to ask you about the youth coming to your shows and how important it is that young people get out and see concerts; cause when we were young, that’s what you did, you went to see concerts. Now, you have iTunes and Fuse where you can get all the music sitting at home but it’s still so important to go see the bands live.

Right and we always try to fight to have the summer ticket prices, at least the lawn seats or someplace, under twenty dollars. We fight, we fight, and I know that not everyone likes that from the money side of things but I think it’s really important to have one low-price ticket that people can get into these shows. I think what happens is you exclude young people. Who can afford that? I don’t want to pick on any bands but there’re a lot of big bands that go out there and I hear their tickets are $350 and I go, there’s not going to be one kid in that audience, you know. You’ll be playing for old fogeys like me (laughs). You’re going to be playing for people who have already been there a million times but where’s the new audience? And we like to see young faces and new people. It doesn’t have to be young faces, just new people that maybe have never seen Styx live before. And we want them to want to come back. We always say this but we have the motto, let’s make tonight’s show better than last night’s show.

This is a band, Styx the band is something that has been protected and the reason it’s still around is because they’ve had to make changes so that the band does grow, so that it stays a positive force and that the original intention of the recordings of the songs are protected. We pay great homage to the original recordings and we find places live where we can stretch out and show our musicianship. There’s a lot there for us to be able to do that with so that it doesn’t become a karaoke situation. But it’s one of our pet peeves that bands change the pay off line or change the guitar solo in the middle of a song. You came to hear this one guitar solo and the guy decides to riff off and do something else or the singer sings a different melody instead of that one you were waiting for him to hit all night. We don’t do that. We give that to you and then we find other places where we can give you a little something extra. That also makes us every night able to kind of explore ourselves and our musicianship where it isn’t a karaoke situation. Even though we have a deep catalog where we can change the song list night by night and play different material to keep it live for us, we still, no matter whether it’s a deep cut or a hit, we really want to present it the way you grew up hearing it.

What was the most difficult song in their catalog for you to learn when you joined in 2003?

I don’t know if it was so much a song, because at that point I’d been doing this a lot. I’d been in a lot of bands. I was in The Babys, that was my first big international band, and then from there we put Bad English together, which was half Journey and half The Babys. Then I went off to do a record with Jimmy Page and David Coverdale. After that I did tons of session work and played on a lot of stuff. So in the studio, I’d been thrown stuff that had made my brain twist like a pretzel. I mean, we had really pushed sometimes doing studio work but sitting down on your own and learning material has never been a problem for me. But they did have, I will say, there was this piece of music, an eighteen song medley that we were doing at the time I joined the band, and it was a tip of the hat at all of Styx and it was a brain-twister, man, a brain teaser (laughs). It took me a while to figure it out because there were probably six different time signatures throughout this thing and it was Todd Sucherman, the drummer for Styx, who has got quite a following of his own, and he put this thing together. He took it upon himself to do this arrangement and it’s mathematically correct but as far as learning it, that was my challenge.

What song would you like to play live that maybe Styx has never done or doesn’t do very often? Is there a personal favorite you’d like to play more?

Yeah, that’s funny you should ask that. There actually is. I love the song “Snowblind.” The first time I heard it on the radio I just went, Wow, how cool is this. It’s got that smokey, bluesy side to it but the arrangement and the presentation and everything about it, is very, very cool. And we just don’t do that song that much. It just seems to be one of those songs that gets kicked back. I always bring it up and drive people crazy with it but there’s kind of a dance you have to put together every night. There’s a way you need to sequence your set that carries you through the set. And when you’re up in front of, let’s say it’s a twenty thousand sold out venue, twenty thousand people out there screaming and hollering, you don’t want to drop down to this slow/mid-tempo. It doesn’t work a lot. People want high energy rock & roll to carry them through these summer months. So it limits where you can introduce a song like that and usually songs with a slow tempo like that become hits and favorites but it is one of mine, definitely.

But it does build up at the end though.

Yeah, that’s true but you’d have to, by example, have to see it thrown in the middle of this cookin’ set and all of a sudden you’d drop down to (humming) “do-do-do” (laughs). People would think, “Ok, I guess I can go to the bathroom. I’ll be back in three minutes.” (laughs) There’s always that “beer song” we call it; the song where everybody gets up to go get a beer. You don’t want to have that be that.

You mentioned being in Bad English. Why didn’t that band last? It had several big hits.

It’s pretty simple really. We all had been good friends and colleagues over the years and we were excited to put that band together. Jonathan Cain and I got together and he told me Journey was going to split up and he was about to announce this to the press and he wanted something ready. “Do you want to do something? I want to do something like we had when we were in The Babys together.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m in, let’s do it.” And we were toying around with who we wanted to be the singer and we were thinking about who to be on guitar and he ran into John Waite in New York when he was producing a record and he had dinner with John and he called me up the next day and said, “Look, I just had dinner with – we used to call him Bingo (laughs) – I just had dinner with Bingo and I think the three of us should get together up at my studio in San Francisco and let’s write for a few days and see if we still have the magic.” So we did and basically we got a record deal, the three of us, with Epic and then Neal Schon came in.

He had been coming by and putting on solos for us but he was going to do his own solo record. He said, “Listen, I’ve been in Journey all these years and it’s finally time where I can work on my solo career and I’m not sure I want to do this but, boy, this sounds great.” He kept coming by and we were actually going to hire the great guitar player Andy Timmons and he heard about that and he flew down to LA where we were working on the project at that point and threw his hat in the ring. We had wanted Neal from the beginning only because we all had this deep connection and when we all worked together, it was just something that was familiar, it happened quickly, not to mention that he’s insanely gifted as a guitarist. But not to take anything away from Andy Timmons, Andy Timmons had everything as well, just in a different direction. But I think the familiarity and comfortability that happens, especially when you’re really, really, putting it all out there, brand new project which could fail miserably, you want to have all your ducks in line and make it as easy as possible. So Neal was the obvious progression; besides the fact that he was a dear friend of all of us. And that’s what happened.

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But, back to your question: Why didn’t that just last forever then? One of the things we hadn’t really maybe gone far enough in to look at, when you get guys like that that are like brothers, nobody wants to listen to anybody else. And everybody is trying to speak and there’s always time in a band when you need to shut up and listen. But when it’s a band of brothers, it sometimes gets to be too many cooks and that’s what happened. And at a certain point, nobody wanted to listen to the other guy and it burnt out quickly. It was a bright light for a while. We had, I think, six Top Forty releases off of that first record. We had a number one, I think we had two top fives besides the number one. It was just one of those things where song after song was getting great airplay. But it was fun and we’re all still friends. I just worked with Neal Schon and Steve Smith from Journey on the Ronnie Montrose Life Celebration concert. John Waite opened up for us, for Styx, about four or five months ago and it was great to see him; he is singing better than ever. And Jonathan Cain, again, we’ve done shows with Journey over the past few years, done several shows with them. It’s just good to see your buds.

Who was the first real rock star you ever met?

Wow, you know, probably Timothy B. Schmidt from the Eagles. And he wasn’t even in the Eagles at that time. But I knew that guy was going places. I was a little kid, probably eleven, maybe twelve, and I was going to see every band that would come to my little town and I would go early to watch them set up cause I wanted to see what kind of gear they were using and how they set it up and all this stuff. And I remember helping them, they needed help getting a Hammond B3 or something out of a trailer. They had driven up from Sacramento – I was in Redding, California, this little tiny town in the north – and they were playing a tennis court dance in the summer and I helped Timothy Schmidt set up his gear (laughs). I’ve never told him that. But that was probably the first guy I met and he wasn’t even a rock star yet. But I could tell this guy had this amazing voice and he played great and had this charisma that nobody else in his band even had. I don’t know, this guy’s a rock star.

You’ve talked about Paul McCartney being an influence for you. Since February is a big Beatles anniversary month, I wanted to ask you as a bass player, what do you think was McCartney’s greatest moment on the bass?

Hmm, this is the kind of question that people ask me and I’m going to give you an answer and then later I will go, no, that’s not the one, that’s incorrect, cause I will think of the correct answer later (laughs). There was not much Paul did wrong. There was nothing Paul did wrong. The one thing, even in “She Loves You,” all of the more melodic poppy tunes in the beginning, the bass was radical, man. I mean, it was just rocking and when you got to the point where you were doing songs like, and I always use this as an example when other bass players, young bass players are asking me, “What should I be working on?” I say, listen to what Paul McCartney does to the song. Listen to the elements of rhythm and melody he puts into the song. Because if you take the bass out of “Nowhere Man” and you just hear the bass part to “Nowhere Man,” I almost defy you to be able to tell that it’s “Nowhere Man.” It does not do anything but support the chords. The melody that is being played is absolutely brilliant because it carries the song. You’re never focusing on the bass in “Nowhere Man,” but that’s exactly the right thing to play. And that’s what Paul did. He didn’t just bang eighth notes on a root. He played a melody that carried and added dimension to what was already there with the vocals and the guitar parts. And that’s something that I am so fortunate to have learned and to have been aware of as a kid developing and it’s definitely a huge part of why I’ve had the success and been able to perform and be in the bands I’ve been in and to carry my own. It’s because I had that influence.

So what still excites you about playing music?

You know, if I’m bored in my house, I go to the piano or I grab one of my acoustic guitars; or if I’m downstairs, I plug in my bass or I have another piano down there (laughs) and I’ll sit down at that piano, which is the piano I’ve had since I was six years old and you know, that’s my happy place, man. That’s the place that I can put a glass of wine down on a piano and two hours later, I go, oh my gosh, I got stuff to do or I’ve got to get to bed or whatever it is. To me, it’s a place where you can go and be creative and, I don’t know, kind of get lost – it doesn’t necessarily have to be writing something. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of like a dream. You wake up and if you don’t write the dream down you won’t remember it. That’s what happens when you’re playing. I’ll be playing and I’ll go, I’ll work on this tomorrow. If I don’t record it then and there, I will wake up the next day and I’ll go, what was that again? Cause it just goes away. So a lot of times I think the creative process is much like a dream. You have to [record it], it will go away or you won’t remember the exact accent; you’ll have the notes right but you’ll go, why doesn’t this sound the same? So I’ve learned to have a little tape recorder next to my piano for those moments.

Playing live, what would you say was your most nerve-wracking experience on stage?

It’s always about being able to hear yourself, being able to hear your pitch while you’re singing. I go crazy when I don’t have the right mix, cause I want to go out there and I want to give you the best Ricky Phillips you’ve ever seen every night. I take it personally. So when there is something wrong with my mix, that’s what throws me down. You will hear musicians say clams and that means you’ve played a bad note, but that’s when you’ll hear the clams. If I can’t hear myself or I can’t hear another musician I need to be hearing to play with at that time, that’s the time where I’m fighting to hear. When you’re thinking about the music, you’re not playing it at your best. It has to just become a part of you; it has to be a flow, a vibe, and within that, your focus has to be almost an essence. You’re there, you are the music, you are a part of it, but if you’re looking at your hands and you’re thinking of the notes to come, there’s no flow, it doesn’t have the groove that needs to be there. And to do that, I need to be able to hear the drums and I need to be able to hear pitch and melody, and that’s when you’ll really see Ricky Phillips get uptight.

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Everyone knows that the bass player and the drummer are the foundation of any band, especially live. So what is it like working with Todd Sucherman?

Well, thank you for acknowledging that. I don’t think a lot of people understand that about the bass and the drums, but you think of music or a band as a house. That’s often been the analogy is that we’re the foundation. We’re the concrete that’s poured and we’re the beams and the walls that are underneath there so that everybody else can be all the painted fancy colors on top. If we’re not solid, there’s no place for the rest of it to even be able to present itself. I met Todd, actually, in a studio session I had. I walked in and I heard him tuning up and there’s something that drummers of Todd’s caliber will do just in tuning their drums and just playing a riff here and there to hear tone. But you can tell, yeah, he’s one of those guys. And it was immediate, and I said to the producer, I said, “Who is the drummer on this session?” And he said, “It’s Todd Sucherman and he’s in the band Styx.” I said I had been hearing about this guy. So Todd and I, it was the best and most immediate bond I’ve ever had with a drummer in my life.

But we cut this guy’s entire record in a day. We came back the next morning and I think we recut something or maybe we finished up something that we had started the night before cause it was getting late. And I’m talking about a six or eight hour day, we cut this guy’s entire record. It was just that easy for us. It flowed and not even all the songs had been finished. They needed help so we’d go boom, let’s just do this, we’ll cut to this, we’ll go here and we were done. My frustration was he’s in Styx and I wanted to work with him in the studio and I wanted to keep being able to use him on sessions I was either producing or even for songs I was writing and he wasn’t available.

So I wasn’t prepared for the day that he called me and said, “Hey, what are you doing? Can you sit down? I need to talk to you.” And I was like, ok, “What’s wrong?” And he was like, “No, no, it’s good but let me tell you what’s going on. Chuck Panozzo can’t do full shows anymore and we need a bass player and I found out that you had risen to the top of the list. JY and Tommy have to talk to you but I asked if I could be the first guy to call you and see if you were interested.” So that was my first initiation to Styx, that’s how it all started. Tommy Shaw, of course, then called me and we had a long conversation: “Hey, do you want to do this? Do you want to do the band thing again because we don’t want any more members in Styx. This is it. We want this to stay just, whoever comes in now, we want it to be you, but we want to make sure you realize that we’re going to rock till we drop.” That’s what Tommy said. “You’re signing on for life here.” So I thought about it and here we are into my tenth year. It will be eleven years in September that I’ve completed with the band and it’s amazing. We’re having a blast out here STILL. We still enjoy it. The drudgeries of the road that some people complain about, we don’t really see it because we love it. When we get home, after three days we’re bored and we want to get back out.

How were the fans at first when you came into the band? Were they a little hesitant or did they accept you right away?

A little bit of both. I had everything from banners to signatures of hundreds of people who were sending me things, welcoming me before I even did my first show. But then I would also have fans that would say, “You better not suck.” People who weren’t aware of my career at all, which you always think that people know what you’re doing but not everybody knows (laughs). Your life is in a bubble. You know what you’ve done and you feel that no matter how proud of your work you are, there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know who the hell you are. And I would get those guys being pretty vocal (laughs). And I look back on it and it’s very endearing because Styx is their band, that’s the band that they chose; the Styx flag is the flag that they want to wave. So they’re concerned about their boys and they want to make sure it’s right. And they didn’t know about me so they wanted to throw it out there, “Look, you got some responsibilities, pal. You better hold up your end.” So it was a little bit of both but once I was there for a while, the fans have just been amazing. I get things every day. They even started a little Facebook fan page for me and it’s very sweet when you see people, they don’t have to do that. People take time out of their home life just to be supportive. It’s very cool.

When you went into the Coverdale/Page project, how long did it take to shake off the nerves that you were actually playing with Jimmy Page? Even though you’ve played with known people before, this was still Jimmy Page.

Yeah, well put, it’s Jimmy Page. Denny Carmassi and I were having lunch the day we met Jimmy and I said exactly that. We had gotten in there, unloaded our gear, and we had time to go get something to eat cause it was going to be a long day, and in the middle of our noodles, or whatever we were eating for lunch, I said, “We’re going to meet up with Jimmy Page here in twenty minutes.” And he looked up at me and said, “Oh thanks, there goes my lunch now.” (laughs) And we both had the same thing but because Jimmy is so cool and, I don’t know, he’s just the greatest guy. He came in with a big smile, with his hand outstretched, walking across the room to meet us: “Thank you guys so much for being here.” And we started off like that and when you start off like that, the nerves went away rather quickly. When we started playing, we got right to it and I think also you get a little lost in the job at hand, the task in front of you, and all of a sudden all that sort of goes away. And you go back home that night and you might sit in your room and go, “Wow, that was an amazing day.”

But working with both David and Jimmy together was cool. One of my favorite experiences certainly. I was never really supposed to do the record. My job in that project, and the reason they called me, is because they wanted somebody solid who was a songwriter that understood arrangement that they could, as David put it, they wanted to really weed through the material and see what was working and what wasn’t and try different things. And they needed people who were used to the studio and could work quickly. Then they were going to put a supergroup together initially and that’s what they thought they were going to do. I remember John Entwistle and Chris Squire and all the guys that I grew up learning from and wanting to be, were the guys that were being bantered about as possibilities.

Then the next thing I know I’m being handed the tickets to fly to Vancouver and we started cutting the record and it was just a great experience. I learned so much from Jimmy. We became good friends, we would hang out, we would go out to clubs at night and hear live music in Vancouver. We were in Reno for a while doing the pre-production. And I would ask him a bazillion questions (laughs), about the Yardbirds and stuff that, well, I’m going to drive him crazy, but he seemed to enjoy talking about it and telling me the stories and hearing it from him and then reading the same thing that he told me in Rolling Stone magazine years later, I’d think, wow, way cool, I already know this stuff. (laughs) But it was a great time.

When you were a kid, what was your dream bass and why did you want it?

Probably a Rickenbacker because of Paul McCartney and Chris Squire. A Rickenbacker bass just looked so cool and when Paul McCartney first started playing Rickenbacker bass, it’s just got this killer design that no other bass had. It didn’t have the nice soft rounded edges all the other basses had and it just looked rock & roll. It’s an awesome design and it sounded cool. It had this twangy tone like the low strings on a grand piano. So I think that was the first one I really wanted. But as a kid I liked EBO’s, like Jack Bruce played one and I loved the EBO bass. These days, I would rarely pull that out, but it’s such a low-end big bassy deep sound that it is an overlooked bass but is very cool for certain things.

My favorite bass, I have to say, is this 1968 Tele bass and that’s what I played in The Babys, that’s what I played with Ronnie Montrose. When you’re in a band situation where you really can rock, where it’s kind of fall on the floor, balls to the wall sort of rock & roll, the ’68 Fender Telecaster bass absolutely to a T is my favorite sound. It’s the most underrated bass, although if you see footage of Hendrix at Woodstock, you’ll see a ’68. There’re a lot of places where you’ll see a ’68. I think when Ron Wood played bass with Jeff Beck, I believe he played the ’68 Tele bass. There’s a lot of sounds you could hear and go, “How is he getting that sound?” It’s that bass. And I have five of them.

I’ve got your website pulled up and you’ve got a lot of really great pictures posted there from your career.

(laughs) My website that hasn’t been touched since I joined Styx?

Well, you have a photo of you at the Starwood playing with Dulaine. What was it like playing there?

A lot of bands’ early days were at the Starwood. The Starwood was a really cool club because it was a little bigger than the Whisky or the Troubadour. So it actually sounded pretty good in there. I owe a lot to the Starwood and that was where  I performed and was kind of discovered by the soundman of The Babys, who tried to track me down and eventually found me. I was working in a music store in Hollywood and he walked in and said, “Oh my God, I’ve been telling the mates about you and you got to come and come over.” They were auditioning and long story short, I ended up getting the gig and ended up being in the band. But if I hadn’t played at the Starwood … and I’d been in Los Angeles for three weeks, I was sleeping on couches, I had twenty borrowed dollars in my pocket when I landed and my ’68 Tele and my 1962 Gibson double-neck and a suitcase with who knows what was in it (laughs). I don’t know, probably not much. But that’s how it started.

Do you still play golf? You have a great picture of you as a little boy with your little pants.

(laughs) Yeah, I might not wear the little pants anymore but I still play golf. As a matter of fact, I started the run of this leg of this tour in Orlando, Florida. I played an Arnold Palmer’s course and I’ve become friends with Mr Palmer since about three years ago. I gave him a guitar and I had all the guys sign it and then I wrote on it: “Mr Palmer, thank you for teaching us class, style and showmanship through the greatest game on Earth. Respect.” And he hung it up at Bay Hill and it’s there right now.

When I saw him earlier at the beginning of January, I had a great visit with him and he bought me a shot of Louis XIII and it was fantastic. There are a lot of people who are friends with Mr Palmer. I’m not saying that I go by his house for dinner or anything but Mr Palmer is a hero of mine. He’s definitely the Muhammad Ali of golf and for some reason our paths crossed and he stands up when I walk over to his table and I’m so embarrassed I just want to say, “Sit down, Mr Palmer, thank you so much,” and he wants to introduce me to the people at his table. But I’m not going to stretch the truth here. I’m not a dear, close friend of Arnold Palmer’s but Mr Palmer is a very cool, wonderful gentleman and I’m just glad he even knows who I am.

There is another photo of you playing with Charlotte Caffey and Belinda Carlisle. What was that event?

Belinda Carlisle did her first solo album after the Go-Go’s and I was doing studio work, had no real project, and I heard she was looking for a band, she was auditioning bands and wasn’t finding anybody she liked. So I called up Brett Tuggle, who has been in Fleetwood Mac now for a number of years, and Tim Pierce, who was the hottest LA session guitarist at the time, and Pat Torpey on drums from Mr Big, and they were all my buds. We all worked together and did stuff together and we put this little band together and we went down and played for Belinda and she stopped all the auditions and she said, “That’s it. Done. Finally. You’re hired.” (laughs) And we went out on the road.

But the other side of this, it was a crazy time because Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and Andy Taylor from Duran Duran had just finished a record that they did together and Andy had played the solo on Belinda’s single. So they didn’t have a band so Pat and I became their band and they would come out and we’d do a couple of songs with them and we did Belinda’s set, of course, and it was just this kind of crazy time. Charlotte was playing keyboards and some guitar with Belinda and that’s the photo you are seeing there. It’s a shot probably from rehearsal or it might have been from a live gig, I’m not sure. I used to call it, cause you’ve got a guy from the Sex Pistols, a guy from Duran Duran and Belinda Carlisle, so I used to call it the Belinda Carlisle Traveling Circus and we had some fun. It was a good time. I liked Belinda. And Charlotte is awesome. And thanks for that. I’ve never talked about the whole Belinda Carlisle and Steve Jones experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about it, so thanks. That was cool.

Live photographs by Leslie Michele Derrough and Vera Harder

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