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The Blues Forum

Garth Webber


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     Garth Webber is a longtime musician who has made quite an impact with his guitar playing. He has played with such folks as Miles Davis, Greg Allman, John Lee Hooker, The Ford Blues Band, Bill Champlin, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Merl Saunders, Bob Weir and Kingfish, and Mose Alison. Touring duties included Europe and South America with Miles Davis, and many, many miles logged with other bands. Garth has released two internationally sold solo CDs (one is reviewed on this website) and is an extremely fine recording engineer with his own studio. An interview with Garth follows.

 

Forum:  In your bio materials I noticed that you have played with some mighty fine folks from different musical genres, such as Miles Davis, Greg Allman, John Lee Hooker, and Bob Weir and Kingfish. What kind of training have you done to play such diverse styles?

GW:  On the job training. I've never taken a music class or had any formal training whatsoever. Back around the late 70's I took a couple lessons from Robben Ford and in the early 80's a couple from Tower of Power guitarist, Bruce Conte. Thats it. I have really learned by listening to other players and just gigging for 30 years.
I think my playing is composed of a mixture of styles, blues, rock and jazz. To me it just seems like the most natural thing in the world to combine these styles. I can't imagine playing strictly one style. I think its very limiting. I like the power of rock but the harmonic complexity of jazz and the soulfulness of blues.

Forum:  Can you tell us a bit about your history....what got you into music?

GW:  In about 1966, at the age of 12, or so I was walking around Golden Gate park in S.F. and I stumbled across a band playing in the bandshell. It happened to be Moby Grape. I just knew instantly that I wanted to start playing music, that day if possible! I started out as a drummer but then switched to guitar when I heard Tommy Bolin in the late 60's. He was a local guitar player in Boulder CO where I lived. He was a great player and had serious charisma. His band actually rehearsed for a summer at the farm where I lived. He was very nice and would show me things. Little mini-lessons.
In about 1976 I heard Robben Ford and that changed my whole direction. I have Robben to thank for so much. He has never ceased to inspire me. At that time I began to work regularly in top 40 bands around Denver. In 1979 I decided to come out to CA hoping for an opportunity to play in an original project of some sort. I became established in the San Francisco bay area scene and have been fortunate enough to play with some great people.

Forum:  What was it about blues that brought you into the fold?

GW:  Its funny. When I was playing in top 40 bands in Denver I was at a guys house jamming with him. He called his wife into the room and said "Honey, listen to this guy play the blues!". I honestly didnt know exactly what part of my playing was blues. I was just playing ... the guitar. I didnt really know what blues was per se. I had never listened to a blues record in my life. So I guess I must have absorbed some along the way without realizing it. When I heard Robben Ford though, that clinched it.

Forum:  Do you have any particular influences that led you to your distinctive playing style?

GW:  Ahh well.. er mmm, maybe Robben Ford ;-) In the very early days I would say it was the usual rock guys; Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, Richie Blackmore, and of course Tommy Bolin. I also used to dig Leslie West, Brian May, Martin Barre. I liked the players who had technique, played in tune and had good phrasing. I never dug real fast playing for it's own sake. Alvin Lee, that sort of thing. 

Forum:  I noticed that you have done a lot of touring in the past with some great players. Are there any experiences that were particularly impactful on your current career?

GW:  Well, of course playing with Miles Davis has had an impact. Thats a pretty good calling card to have. My association with the Ford brothers, Robben, Patrick and Mark has done a lot for me.

Forum:  The guitar tone on your new CD, "Man On A Mission" was outstanding. What guitar, amp, effects did you use for your primary sound?

GW:  Thanks. It was my Fender "Robben Ford" model guitar into an old Boss SD 1 overdrive pedal (yellow) into a little Fender amp. Most of the tracks were done with a newer Concert Amp (1994 maybe). Some were a '69 Super Reverb. On stage I use an old SPX 90 and I split the signal to both the amps. They sound great together and kind of make up for each other's deficiencies.

Forum:  I couldn't help but notice that you have Robben, Mark, and Patrick Ford on your CD. Is there a story behind that relationship?

GW:  I met Robben in Boulder in '76 through a drummer I knew who was playing a few gigs with him. In '82 or so I met Mark through the Bay area club scene. He then asked me to join his band and through him I met brother Patrick who is a great blues drummer. Pat also runs his own label, Blue Rock'it Records and leads his own band, the Ford Blues Band of which I was a part for some time.

Forum:  Can you tell us a bit about some of the other fine players you used on the sessions?

GW:  Two drummers; Jimmy Sanchez, who plays with Roy Rogers, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, Boz Scaggs and many others. The other is a girl named Robin Roth who now lives in Texas. She has a great solid feel and just grooves.

The bass is Dewayne Pate who is a local monster and works with lots of bay area bands. He is also in Patrick Ford's band.

On the piano is John R. Burr who plays with a banjo player named Alison Brown. He has also worked with Maria Muldaur for many years and plays a lot of jazz gigs and sessions. He has the most amazing touch on a keyboard.

The organ is Tony Lufrano AKA Tony Macaroni. He's another great player on the scene and gets a great B3 tone out of a synth. I dont know how he does it.

There are two guest singers; John Lee Sanders who is flat out a genius. He is an incredible singer, plays great keyboards and plays great Sax! Then, Mz Dee is a great singer with a voice that sounds like velvet. When she sings 3 part background overdubs we call it "3Dee".

And then the three Ford Brothers were kind enough to play on this CD. For those who don't know, Mark is, for my money, the best blues harmonica player on the planet. I've never heard anybody touch him.

Forum:  One of the things that amazed me about the CD is that you also engineered, mixed, and produced it. Can you tell us about your studio and your engineering life?

GW:  I engineer five days a week. This is something I was born to do. I really love it and I'm good at it. In most cases bands don't really have a formal producer and I end up taking that role which I enjoy. I've been doing the home studio thing for almost 20 years now so I definitely have a game plan and I know how I like to do things. Having a studio is like having a hobby that pays.

Forum:  What are your plans for the future? Any thoughts of touring so we can get a chance to see you?

GW:  I'm working on another CD project. This one will be instrumental and I'm going to be more self indulgent as far as length of solos and that sort of thing. It will really be about the playing. As far as touring, it takes a lot to get me out of the house and onto a plane these days. If I got a call from Bruce Hornsby I'd go out. I love his stuff. But I have turned down several things that were offered to me in the last few years. I do like touring in Europe, especially Norway. They are a great blues audience.

Forum:  Do you have any tips for players who are working to get noticed in the blues scene?

GW:  Yes, Quit trying to sound like SRV! Enough already. It's been done to death. I would say try to find something individual in your playing and cultivate it. Find the thing that you do well that no one else is doing. Wes Montgomery did things with octaves that no one else did. Van Halen pretty much defined or at least popularized tapping. Discover something unique. Also, be visible. Sit in when you're not gigging. Go see other players and meet them. Find a weekly jam session and make a nuisance of yourself.

Forum:  I know that "Man On A Mission" is an independent release. Are there any plans for distribution and how can folks purchase a copy? 

GW:  Oooh Dont get me started! I think I am just going to sell direct this time. That way I actually get some money for my work. The way the record companies are set up with respect to paying the artist is truly shameful and a lot of musicians who have worked their asses off have gotten nothing from their records. It all gets chewed up by middlemen. So I see the internet as a godsend. Anyone who wants a copy of my CD can email me at garthrr@aol.com. I charge $15 each and give breaks for quantities.