Wright brings down the house in no time!"
- Blues Matters
"Gregg Wright is no stranger in these parts - he's welcomed onto the
stage by a full house, and I mean full house! The place is awash with
people! He's given a hero's welcome, and sets about bringing the house
down in no time at all. This man is not given to gentle introductions or
formalities - he's straight down to business and his business is Rockin'
Blues! If you like your Blues dosed up in easy to swallow chunks, don't
bother coming. Gregg's medicine is served up in massive infusions
straight into the jugular. Overdoses are regular and the poor victims
are seen staggering down the stairs at intervals, and at the end of the
evening's session. There's no antidote available at these gigs so I'm
afraid to say that victims have to "cold turkey" it out, post
performance! His rhythm section maintain the high octane performance
demanded by the Schumacher of Blues. Musicians in the audience had eyes
like kids in Toys 'R' Us just before Christmas. Several surreptitiously
played air guitars during some of the numbers and were singing along to
many a song and psalm from the Gregg Wright Book of Hymnals. His set
contains a nice mix of golden Blues oldies, stirred in with several
numbers off his CDs. I tell you, the crowd not only like this guy, they
- Diane Gillard, The Tawe Delta Blues Club, Swansea, Wales
What were your first musical memories growing up in Wichita Falls,
Gregg: I was actually born
on the East Coast in Jersey but I spent part of my youth in Wichita
Falls, which is where I picked up the guitar. My earliest musical
memory is of my mother playing the piano in church. There was always
music in our house but my parents were very open minded and they liked
to listen to everything. I remember my mother used to like to listen to
a lot of the ballroom dancing stuff, my Dad was a jazz guy, and I liked
rock and roll. I didnít really want to know anything about blues
because to me that was old peopleís music.
Alan: Did you always
want to become a musician?
Gregg: I donít know if I
always wanted to become a musician but Iíve always been a musician, but
I just didnít know that was what it was called. When I was a kid I used
to think there was something wrong with me because I always used to make
up these little melodies for whatever was happening in my life, you know
like, if I had to pee against a tree out in the woods then I used to
sing about it.
Alan: How did you get
started in music? I think your father was in the military so you must
have moved around a lot?
Gregg: We did, so it was
good preparation for the life I picked as an adult and Iím now used to
Alan: How did your
professional career start?
Gregg: My Dad was stationed
at a place called Sheppard Air Force base in Texas. Thereís not a whole
lot to do around Wichita Falls other than chase jack rabbits or play
football or be in a band. On the base they used to have a teen centre
and every weekend they had these dances, with bands. From the minute I
walked in and saw my first live band I was just hooked. Iíd stand right
in front of the guitar player and just watch everything his hands were
doing, thinking how on earth did he do that. I eventually pestered my
parents to get me a guitar?
So what music did you play in the early days?
Gregg: The first guitar riff
I ever played was Sunshine of My Love by Cream. I loved that big
distorted sound and that great vibrato sound that Clapton had, even
though I didnít know how that was done.
Alan: So what first
attracted you to the blues?
Gregg: A lot of the rock
that came out in the late 60s, especially from Britain, was by all these
guys who had been influenced by the blues but it didnít sound like the
blues to me because Iíd heard the blues the way my parents and
grandparents listened to it, but I recognised some of the licks, so this
was like super-powered blues. Iíd argue with my parents and Iíd say,
ďNo, this is rock and rollĒ but theyíd be saying ďNo, those guys are
playing the blues manĒ. All that Hendrix, Clapton, Jimmy Paige, Jeff
Beck, all those guys were seriously rooted in the blues but they
happened to plug into Marshalls which made it sound different. So I
kind of went full circle and started from there. I guess as you develop
as a musician you start looking for deeper meaning and deeper feeling
and you arrive back where you started.
Alan: Earlier in your
career you opened for blues legends like Albert King, Freddy King and
many others. Tell me about those experiences.
Gregg: That was in the mid
70s and through my travels I had ended up getting a call from a friend
to go and play some gigs down in Louisiana. I never had any designs on
ever going to Louisiana but, wow, what a treasure trove of culture and
music and I got really absorbed in it. We had a good local band and
weíd had a local record out that had done reasonably well for us so we
were starting to get calls to do opening shows for some of the major
people that were passing with. So I opened for Albert King several
times and I actually did a small tour opening for Freddy King. That was
like dynamite going off in my head, being with those guys, talking with
them and really seeing up close what it is that they do.
After moving to Los Angeles in the Ď80s, you were hailed as ďthe man
in music history to have played with the two biggest record sellers of
all time, Michael Jackson and Mick Fleetwood. There must have been some
Gregg: Playing with Michael,
who then was at the peak of his thing with Thriller out, was the kind of
mania that Iíd always dreamed of being part of. When I was a kid, the
sight of the Beatles running down the street being chased by 50,000
girls tends to have a big impression on a fella! It looked like a good
job to me. The reality was much different to the fantasy or the dream.
If youíve ever seen The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston when he
comes down from Mount Sinai after talking to the burning bush, his eyes
are like this big and his hair and beard are turn shockingly
white...well after a year and a half playing with Michael, being on tour
with those guys and operating at that level, thatís how I felt.
Alan: A lotís been
written and said about Michael Jackson but he seemed to be a good man.
Gregg: He was a good man. I
felt really bad about all those allegations with all that stuff and I
knew it wasnít true. On that tour, city after city, hotel after hotel,
you could see the hyena sitting out there waiting for an opportunity to
do something and I knew thatís what that was. The thing that people
donít realise, and I hope one day to write a book about it, is that he
didnít just one day wake up as Michael Jackson. That guy worked harder
than anybody. We would do these two and half hour shows which were just
a real marathon of physical fitness and energy output and it was not
uncommon after the shows for the rest of us to be collapsed in our
rooms. He used to carry this little 10 x 10 foldaway wooden floor and
if you happened to be in the hotel room beneath his it was not uncommon
to hear him at 2 oíclock in the morning practicing.
Who influence you most in your music writing and playing?
Gregg: When I first started
I was really on the Hendrix thing and that really stuck with me in
different ways but really and truly Iím at a stage now in my music
development where I think Iíve really found my own voice and I seem to
be just snatching things out of the air.
Alan: Are there any
particular songs you play that have a special meaning to you?
Gregg: I think they all do,
itís kind of like your kids. You love Ďem all.
Alan: Tell me about
the band, whoís with you now?
Gregg: We have Marty Prior
playing bass guitar, who is a very fine bass player. We have Spencer
Lee Gordon who is some kind of insane genius because he plays about five
instruments just extremely well, and I canít tell which one he really
Alan: Tell me about
the making of your latest album, King of the Rocking Blues.
Gregg: The tracks are all my
own compositions, and I have a full production studio at my house so we
did it there. I seem on this record to be reflecting back on the stuff
I heard as a little kid. This is probably the most rootsy record Iíve
Alan: You have a
reputation for putting your all into every performance; your shows are
legendary - gaining the accolade as the 'King of the Rockin' Blues! What
is it that drives you?
Gregg: I have no idea! To
me, it just seems like Iím standing still and looking out at the
audience but apparently thatís not what happens, so I donít know, maybe
I just get swept up in the music.
Alan: In my research,
I found a quote, "Diplomacy through music.. a cost effective,
educational and fun way to keep the peace". Do you see music having
a greater diplomatic role in the future?
Gregg: It could be. I donít
think the powers that be will ever allow or condone something like that,
but really itís like trying to keep gas in a bottle and you canít. No
matter what they do or think, or how they try to inhibit it, music is
like an electrical current and you canít stop it. I went to play in
Serbia this year, a former Soviet bloc country and at one time my
country was planning how to blow these people off the face of the earth
and I guess they were planning the same thing for us. And now after
trillions and gazillions of dollars wasted on these elaborate weapons
systems which only had one conclusion, 50 years of that and nothing,
absolutely nothing was accomplished, then comes along little old me with
my little Strad and a plug-in amp and everybody is on the same page. We
didnít even speak the same language and Iím sure lots of other musicians
have found the same thing. Music transcends, it heals and thereís much
more to it than just entertainment. The main street media tends to
trivialise what music really is and create cartoon caricatures of music
people, but thatís not what music is.
published 10 'Must Know' tips for career musicians on your website,
which I think is priceless, absolutely wonderful, but I wondered how you
feel about musicians having a rapport with the audience on stage and
whether that is important.
Gregg: I think it is, it
really is. I always used to find it really difficult to talk to an
audience, I didnít know what to say so Iíd hold my head down and play
and think that was enough. But I guess as you get older and you get
more comfortable in your skin you want to communicate with people.
Alan: People do
appreciate it more, they feel more special.
Gregg: Yes, as a performer
you are shooting for a certain unity, a oneness, a togetherness. If you
donít communicate with the audience on a verbal level then you tend to
feel like thereís a gap and are a little less effective.
Alan: So what are
your future plans?
Gregg: Working on a new
album right now but no idea what itís going to be called. Iím just
going with it. See, this is another thing as Iíve gotten older, and
Iíve stopped trying to write things. I just sort of let them happen and
itís a lot more positive result. Weíve got about half the album nearly
canned and it seems to be that this one is a lot more aggressive, more
hard hitting and I seem to be playing much more sinister guitar. Weíll
get it out early next year.
Alan: Thank you very
much for that Gregg, and good luck with the new album.
album places Gregg Wright in the top echelons of the great blues
- Blues Matters
"Wow! What an album! Expecting high standards
from Gregg, and this album delivers! It's as if he's playing live to you
in your own front room Ė turn the speakers up and be absorbed in the
Blues, with the winning combination of great and very relevant lyrics
for the 21st century combined with good old fashioned solid
musicianship. Tracks such as ďCry Myself A RiverĒ; ďBayou MoonĒ and
ďTricked By the DevilĒ demonstrate the depth of this guys talent. It is
not an exaggeration that this album places Gregg Wright in the top
echelons of the great blues guitarists. This album creates the
spellbinding sound that Gregg produces during his live performances. It
is a rare commodity, the demonstration of stellar guitar skills and a
soulful voice, that shapes the lyrics to ensure the emotions are
delivered on time every time. The title track ďKing of the Rockiní
BluesĒ; neatly sums up this album and Gregg has every right to see
himself as a King when it comes to rockiní and soulful blues".
- Liz Aiken
Check out Gregg at the Carlisle Blues Festival
Check out Gregg at the Maryport Blues Festival
Blues Interviews List
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