Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1:

Takin’ A Walk.

Waddy Wachtel:

Yeah, I went from the Emily Brothers to Carole King. We toured her album called Thoroughbred, which was a follow-up to Tapestry. Peter Asher saw me playing with Carole and Peter approached me to play with Linda, and I was busy doing sessions here in LA. I got a call from Jimmy Iovine’s office saying they want me to come play for Stevie’s solo album. She’d been in Fleetwood Mac for years, but now she was going to do her first solo album and she and I have been together since then.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Takin’ A Walk podcast, the show where your host, Buzz Knight, talks with musicians and industry insiders about the inspiring creative forces around music. Today our guest is guitarist extraordinaire, Waddy Wachtel. You know Waddy from his career playing alongside music greats such as Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, the Rolling Stones, and others. And he’s here to discuss his latest project in collaboration with other great studio musicians known as The Immediate Family, which is also the subject of a new documentary of the same name. Welcome Waddy Wachtel with Buzz Knight, next on Takin’ A Walk.

Buzz Knight:

Waddy, welcome to Takin’ A Walk, the virtual edition, and congrats on Immediate Family, the documentary and Immediate Family, the project. How did this project come about and why is it so special?

Waddy Wachtel:

Thank you for the welcome, first of all, Buzz. I appreciate it. I love being here with you. It came about, Danny Kortchmar had a record deal. A Japanese label offered Danny a record deal, and he wanted to do his record, so he figured all of us would be out of town. But as it turned out, Leland and Russell were in town, and they of course said yes. And I was on the road with Stevie Nicks, but it was a three-day weekend, and the guys went in on Friday and Saturday, and I came home Saturday night and joined them on Sunday, and we spent the whole day just playing the remainder of the songs that were left to track live, and I overdubbed on the other songs that they’d done the day before. And as soon as we started playing live, we all would just look at each other like, this is how it’s always felt when we play together, and it falls together so quickly and easily.

And it’s funny, with guitar players, a lot of times you don’t know where the other guitar player’s hands are going to be, but Danny and I, even when we first met, we’ve been doing it together for almost 50 years, but when we first met, we instantly went to a different part of the neck than I was, and that he was. And we’ve always maintained that same relationship. We always knew where the other brother was not going to be on the guitar neck. And Steve Postell’s style is so different than both Danny and myself that it was easy to fit his… He’s a very finger-based guitar player, finger-picking kind of style, which is neither Danny or me at all.

So it was really a good lock of three different guitars being able to play together, because a lot of times, three guitars playing together could be a nightmare, but it worked very well right away. And between Russell and Leland, Danny and myself, having been playing together for so long, everybody just said, “It’s a band. It’s a band.” We said, “We should make this a band.” And nobody had any objection. The Japanese label wanted Danny to tour. And he goes, “Well, I can’t tour it without you guys. It’d be ridiculous.” And Danny came up with the name, he says, “You guys aren’t my family. We’ll call it The Immediate Family.” And we all agreed. It was a beautiful day.

Buzz Knight:

I love in the documentary too, that scene with you guys walking through the Times Square area. That is so sweet.

Waddy Wachtel:

Yeah, it’s cool. Thank you. Yeah, it’s neat. We were playing at the Iridium at that point, and Danny and the crew came and filmed us down there. It was wonderful.

Buzz Knight:

Had you been a guy that was really keenly observant of great players such as the Wrecking Crew guys? You mentioned Danny Tedesco, and he obviously did the great doc on the Wrecking Crew, but had you been a keen observer of their great work?

Waddy Wachtel:

Oh, sure. I moved to California in 1968, and I started doing sessions right around the end of ’69 into ’70, and I got to play with some of those incredible guys, Mike Daisy. I knew Hal Blaine. We never did work on a session together. But I worked with Joe Osborne, I worked with Mike Daisy, worked with Larry Knechtel, and these guys were the guys. It was an honor and a treat to get to play with these people, so I was very aware of them, yeah. And then as the days and months went by, my name got spread around town more and more and more, and I started working a lot. And the next thing I knew, I met Leland on a session. It was for Bobby Womack, the great Bobby Womack, and there’s Leland and I. So there was the beginning of our Immediate Family, and a few days later, I met Russell Kunkel.

We were both driving a ’57 Chevy wagon and came across each other in the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard, and just kind of stopped and just acknowledged each other. And Russell said, “I got to go, but I’m going to be seeing a lot of you.” And then a few weeks later, I got a call to play for Lou Adler, and that’s when I met Danny. And it was Leland, Russell, Danny and myself and the great David Foster was playing piano. And that was the first time the four of us played together. And right away it was a lock instantly, and it’s been that way since that date.

Buzz Knight:

Did you ever do any work or have any encounter with the late Jim Gordon?

Waddy Wachtel:

Oh, sure. Yeah, I did. I did several sessions with Jim. Yep. I did a bunch of recording dates with him, and I did a midnight special. We played for Jackie DeShannon, and Jim was playing drums on that performance. And so yeah, I met Jim. I knew Jim.

Buzz Knight:

What do you make of the tragedy of Jim Gordon?

Waddy Wachtel:

Just horrible, horribly sad and tragic. Tragedy is the word. I mean, Jim was always a… He was a different kind of guy. I didn’t know him well, but he was a suspicious kind of guy. He was always observing from a different point of view, and it was just… I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. Came out of nowhere. He was a sweet, sweet guy. Like I said, he came at stuff with a different kind of point of view, but he was always lovely to me. He played drums like an angel, beautiful drummer. So it was out of nowhere. Like I said, I didn’t know him well, so I have no idea how he was off time at home, away from the studio, but it was horribly shocking, as it still is.

Buzz Knight:

Well, you were hired by a guy named Warren Zevon to then be with the Everly Brothers. Tell me about that first experience with Warren and the Everly Brothers.

Waddy Wachtel:

Well, do you mean the audition I did for Warren or the first gig with the Everlys? Because at the audition, they weren’t there. I was strictly having to play for Warren, and that’s where we met. And it was a funny day because when I heard about that gig, I knew that would be the gig for me because I knew their material so well. I knew every song, I knew every guitar part, I knew every vocal part. There was no way I wasn’t going to get that job. So I get there and Warren comes in, and he had a definite attitude about being the musical director for the Everly Brothers. I couldn’t blame him. And I was replacing a great guitar player named Bob Warford. So Warren said, “Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play this song once and then you’ll play it.”

And I said, “Okay, that’s fine.” I said, “But you could really eliminate playing it once and then me playing it, because I know these songs so well.” He goes, “No, we’re going to do it my way.” I said, “Okay, fine, fine.” So I’m talking about a song called Walk Right Back. And when they played it, at first, as soon as Warren started playing it, I’m sitting there going, “He’s playing it wrong. He’s not playing that figure correctly.” So I knew this was going to be an issue. And when they got done, he says, “Okay, now you play it with us.” I said, “Okay, I will, but you’re not playing it right.” And he goes, “What do you mean I’m not playing it right? I’m the musical director.” And I said, “Well, that may be, but it goes like this.” And I played the figure the way it goes, and the bass player who’d been with the Everlys a long, long time goes, “Hey, that’s right. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

So Warren and I instantly were like oil and water. And at the end of the audition, he said, “Well, I guess you got the job,” with this really attitude. And he also said… And at that point, I had a beard. He goes, “You’re going to have to cut that beard off, though.” I went, “What?” I said, “Hey man, look, if the Everly Brothers tell me to shave my beard off, I’ll shave it off right then, but you telling me to shave? No, I’m not doing that.” So we were at odds with each other from the get-go, but at the same time, we were always musically fascinated by each other. And then the first gig came, and there’s the Everly Brothers, and I’m so nervous just being around these idols of mine, and it went beautifully. It went great, and we had an amazing year together on the road.

Buzz Knight:

Great story. I first became hooked on your playing when I saw you with Warren’s Zevon at the Agora Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio upon the release of-

Waddy Wachtel:

Oh, wow.

Buzz Knight:

Yes.

Waddy Wachtel:

Really? Wow. Excitable Boy tour it had to be.

Buzz Knight:

Yes. That was one of the greatest shows I ever saw. Can you take me back how it felt like delivering that to the audience? What was that like?

Waddy Wachtel:

Oh, well, it was fantastic. I mean, first of all, we were so proud of the record we had made, and the songs on their record were unbelievably great. So taking those songs to stage, and they were all arranged to be played live. We cut them live in the studio. I mean, there were very few overdubs, some of the guitar solos are overdubs, but the tracks are the tracks. We had the great fortune of being in Los Angeles with the greatest musicians available. So the band was myself, Rick Marotta, Stanley Sheldon on bass, and Jaguar we called him, David Landau on the other guitar and Warren and myself. And it was just fantastic. I mean, I have a… Someone gave me a tape recording of a night from that tour, and Warren was very blind drunk a couple of times, so it got a little out of hand here and there. But for the most part, every show was magic, and it was just a great, great band, and we had a ball doing it. Agoura Ballroom, amazing.

Buzz Knight:

Yeah, I could still see it, and I could still smell it.

Waddy Wachtel:

That’s fantastic. I’m so glad you were there. We only did one tour together, and it was really wonderful.

Buzz Knight:

Was it true that you played a minor role in the movie Poseidon Adventure?

Waddy Wachtel:

It is true, a very minor role. I was in the band, the band in the ballroom scene when everybody got killed, when it got flooded, when the boat sank. But yeah, I was in there with that big beard, as a matter of fact. And that was right around the time the Everly Brothers, because as a matter of fact, I got a call from Paramount one day saying, “We need you to come back and we have to shoot a scene where the drummer dies, and you are part of the scene.” I went, “I’m sorry, man, but I’m in North Carolina with the Everly Brothers, and I can’t leave this tour. I’m not coming back.” So that was the same beard we’re talking about. Yeah, I was in it, all right. Yep. That was me.

Buzz Knight:

Talk about some of the other great tours that really left a mark on the fans and that you still think about fondly that you were part of.

Waddy Wachtel:

Well, I mean, every tour has been amazing for me. I mean, I went from the Everly Brothers, and the next time I went out of town, I went with my brothers, with Danny and Russell and Leland and Clarence McDonald was playing piano, and it was Carole King playing her own piano. So Clarence was playing the backup keyboard. But yeah, I went from the Everly Brothers to Carole King. We toured her album called Thoroughbred, which was the follow-up to Tapestry. And then after that, Peter Asher saw me playing with Carole, and Peter approached me to play with Linda. And from Linda, I wound up playing with James, and all the time before all of that ensued in 1970, I met Stevie and Lindsey and we played on their… I played with them on their Buckingham Nicks album, their debut album. I’m part of that record.

So all of a sudden, one day after James’s tour and I was busy doing sessions here in LA, I got a call from Jimmy Iovine’s office saying they want me to come play for Stevie’s solo album. She’d been in Fleetwood Mac for years, but now she was going to do her first solo album, and she and I have been together since then, basically. And the only time that we took a break, the timing was so exquisite because that’s when Keith Richards called me to tell me he’s putting a band together, and I’m the other guitar player in it. So it’s been an extraordinary wild ride, Buzz, I can’t even believe it.

Buzz Knight:

My God, I love it. And tell me about how great it was being with Keith.

Waddy Wachtel:

Well, Keith is the guy you think he is. Let me put it that way. A lot of times when you meet people, you have an image built up in your mind of who they would be or how they would act. And whatever you think, whatever you’ve envisioned about Keith, you’re right. He’s that guy. He’s a beauty. He is highly intelligent. He’s incredibly funny. He’s an amazing guitar player. He is one of the most prolific and successful songwriters the world has ever seen. I mean, between him and Mick, that’s the longest songwriting team in history.

No one’s done what those guys have done, and we had a ball. Not unlike Danny and myself when it came to playing guitar, I knew exactly where to go to play with Keith, where he wouldn’t be. And I knew what sound to use if he was using a specific sound, I knew what sound not to use. And we melded beautifully, and he calls it weaving, and we weave together just magic every time we play. And it’s amazing honor and it’s real every time we get together. And he’s a dear, dear guy and a dear, dear friend.

Buzz Knight:

What did you learn from the Keith experience? Or what are you still learning from the Keith experience? And maybe also you had the experience with the Stones and Saint of Me. What did you learn from that as well?

Waddy Wachtel:

Well, it’s like every time you do something, you’re learning. I mean, I hope to learn something every day, so I just go into a session and try to do the best I can. Like Russell said, at one point in our movie, he goes, “My whole approach was just not to get fired. That’s what you learn is bring something to the song that will stick. And if you do that, maybe you’ll be hired again the next day.” And that’s how it is for us. But it was funny. I’m doing the Keith part on Saint and Me, then I saw the video and there’s Keith playing my part. I go, “Well, that’s funny. That’s different.”

Buzz Knight:

Well, in closing, if you could have a dream session with someone living or dead that you’ve wish you could play a session with, who would it be?

Waddy Wachtel:

That’s a really hard question. Let me put it this way. I’ve yet to meet Paul McCartney. I did meet John Lennon, but to play in the studio with either of them would be a dream come true. That would sum it up pretty well, I think. There’s so many names I could name, but that would take a good front seat. You know what I mean, Buzz?

Buzz Knight:

Yeah, definitely. Well, Waddy, it’s such an honor to talk to you, man. Congratulations on everything and congrats on Immediate Family, the project, the doc. It gets our Takin’ A Walk stamp of approval, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to talk with you, Waddy.

Waddy Wachtel:

Oh, please. I so appreciate that, Buzz. Thank you very, very much, man. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Takin’ A Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Takin’ A Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

 

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.