"Born in Chicago in 1952, Zach Prather grew up listening to many of
the great Blues players. He began playing at the age of 13 and by the
time he was 15, he had made his first record with Curtis Mayfield's
Curtom Records. During this time he had commence
playing at many of the well known clubs and venues in the Chicago area.
17 Prather completed two years military service, after which he formed
another Band and returned to the club scene. However, it was not the
local Blues players that influenced Prather then, rather the British
Invasion groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Small Faces and
The Who. In 1974, Zach moved to Los Angeles and began playing with
another Chicago guitar player, Cash McCall. Together they performed with
some of the biggest names in the Blues, including
Screamin' J Hawkins, Etta James and of
course Willie Dixon. "Cash and I had already become very good friends
when he introduced me to Willie and in a short time we also were very
close, so he, Willie, decided we should record together. Willie really
liked the things I was doing, he knew people where calling it Rock 'n
Roll but no one knew better then him where Rock 'n Roll came from.
During this Recording Project Willie became ill. Zach was with him the
day before he died, and he will always be grateful for being able to
meet this man and for all he taught him about life which is the blues.
Later while touring Europe with Screamin' J. Hawkins, Zach meet Luther
Allison, and after one jam session and some quick arrangements Zach
moved to Paris where he performed with Luther for three and a half
years. While living in Paris, Zach made his first CD called
Never My Love, with Melodie/Encore records. He has not
stopped since ....... "
Alan: What are your first musical memories growing up in Chicago?
Zach: Well some of the first memories are of
sneaking into my living room at night to listen to what my parents where
listening to Ray Charles Muddy, Wolf, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Brown. I
cut my teeth on that stuff man. I didn’t know what I was hearing but I
knew it made me drift away and forget my troubles….not that they where
so big, the troubles of a kid…lol
Alan: You started playing at an early age, what kind of material
were you playing in the early days?
Zach: Well back then I was playing Motown stuff at first attempt,
Marvin Gay, Smokey, that stuff; James Brown we were trying to play it.
I'm not so sure it was good..lol but we where kids and people found it
interesting and cute. We would play a lot at that time for anything
mostly parties and only for a short time. Then later, in my teens I
heard the Beatles and everything changed man
it was rock and roll fever, I'm talking 64 or so then I was doing
Beatles, Stones, some of the early Mayall stuff, Stevie Marriot….I was
Alan: Did you always was to become a musician?
at first I wanted to be an actor. I would find refuge in old black and
white films I loved them. I think I wanted to be an actor before a
Alan: What first attracted you to the blues?
Well what got me into the blues was the British stuff, they where all
playing blues but I didn’t know that. It was much later that I really
got into it once I meet Willie Dixon and Etta James and Screamin' J
Alan: Tell me a little about the 'British Blues Invasion' of the
Zach: It was an exciting time, these New Faces and the fact they
played instruments as well as sang and wrote their own songs was really
something different. I guess you could say they represented freedom as
an artist. It seemed you could really create that way and it attracted
me. Even the clothes where exciting and at a young age I tried to be a
mod…a face actually..lol. It was a breath of fresh air and really change
my view about being an entertainer.
Alan: Who are your favourite blues artists (both old and new)?
Zach: Well from the old school I loved Albert King, that was my
man I would have to say my favorite. Later I got into Freddy King as
well and Muddy and Wolf of course plus Etta James, there was something
about her voice man she was and still is the best for me and I'm really
happy I had the chance to play with her.
New people…well I'm still stuck in the old days..lol but one of my
favorite young guys is Ronnie Baker Brooks. He's got a great tone, good
ear for the blues and a killer voice, You can tell him I said so..lol
Then there's a guy from North Africa named Amar Sunday another killer
guitar player. He struggles a little with English but hey that’s his
blues..lol and Luther Allison's son (though he's more rock then I would
play). He's solid I've known him since I played for his dad. He is a
force to recon with.
Alan: Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and
writing I would say the British guys. I loved British pop as well and
lyrics are a big part of that. It was from that I learned to try and be
as literal as possible. Playing, well my mentor a man named cash McCall
He's the biggest influence on me as a player and of course Albert King.
Alan: How did you get to play with Etta James and Willie Dixon?
I meet them along with Screamin' J Hawkins from my friend Cash. He
played with all these people and would drag me around with him. Every
chance he got he would suggest me for a gig. He was working on a record
with Willie (he also co-produced a couple of the later years Dixon CD's)
and brought me in as a background singer. We hit it off from the start
and it grew into a great close friendship.
Alan: Tell me a little more about your time with Willie.
Zach: Well like I said, we became really close. He liked what I was
doing musically as well cause he heard a couple of things. He ask me if
I wanted to do a record but I wasn’t deep in the blues then. I was doing
more funk and I said even though I know it’s a big compliment I wasn’t
ready. He liked that... he understood I respected him and the music
enough not to just jump at the chance to have Willie Dixon produce a
record for me. Later. once the bug hit. I accepted but it was during the
project he got sick.
Alan: Tell me a little
about your time with Luther Allison.
Well playing with Luther was all about energy… high energy. I learned a
lot about being an entertainer from him. 3½ years of high volume… lol. I
had to move to Paris for those years to play with him so in a way he
provided me with a world view as well.
Alan: Tell me about how you came to play with Mick Jagger and what the
experience was like.
Zach: Well, I have a good friend from England. Her name is Danna
Gillespie, some people in her band introduced me to her. She does a
blues festival in Mustique, a little island where Mick has a house,
along with David Bowie and every other famous person... lol. She liked
me and tried to help me. So she took me to the fest. People liked me
there and I've been going every couple of years for the past 5 or 6
years. One year Mick was there and decided to pitch in (the fest is to
raise money for sending poor kids to secondary school… the Basil Charles
Children's Fund) so he came down to a couple of shows to see who he
would want to play with him. He liked what I was doing we had a couple
of conversations and he let me play with Him… it was a great experience
for me cause I'm such a Stones fan. Plus he is really a cool guy, I mean
as cool as you can be when your'e Mick Jagger. I liked him a lot and
hope to have the pleasure again at some point.
What is your favourite guitar?
now my favorite is my 1963 Les Paul custom… its killer. My favorite to
play on stage is my 63 squire strat, first year or so they made them so
actually it’s a fender…lol. Sounds sweet; I play it all the time.
Are there any particular songs that you play that have special
meaning to you?
Yea, all of them..lol. I only write songs about my life. Willie Dixon
told me once “blues are the facts of life, tell your facts and you are
the blues” I took that to heart.
How healthy do you think the blues scene is in the UK/Europe compared
with the US?
Well it always seemed to me Europe always had more respect for the blues
and that’s understandable. In the States man the time period when they
where really going on it was a time most black people want to forget.
Its coming back now but it wasn’t always that way. I've been in Europe
for almost 20 years now. We're working on coming back with the new
record so ask me latter…lol.
Tell me about the making of your latest album Freak.
Freak is the first CD I have produced all on my own (well me and the
band..lol). I left my French label and started my own production company
called Freak Productions. We did 2 weeks pre production in our friends
recording studio, checking out the songs, recording them, trying
different stuff, then went to the mail studio with my co-producer
engineer, a guy named Dezzle and spent a month recording it. It was the
best record I've done in a long time. It's getting great response and so
this is the exact way I will be recording the next one as well.
Some music styles may be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do
you think that is?
Well its because, as I said before, blues are the facts of life and
people want to be around others that understand them, that have had
similar bad times and good times. We all want that. Since blues tells
stories everyone can relate to it will be around as long as people are.
How do you see the future of blues music?
Very bright I would say. As long as people are around, like I said, so
will the blues be.. lol. It will change some as always. It was different
from Robert Johnson and Leadbelly to Wolf and Muddy to Albert King
Freddy and B.B. till now, cause the blues are alive not a dead king we
keep to look at, but they will be here for us.
What are your future plans / gigs / tours / albums?
Next for us… were in the process now of putting together the U.K. tour
and the States for 2010. Its coming together really well so look for us
in your'e town then. Peace.
Alan: Thank you so
much Zach, I really appreciate your time.
yea….We all have the blues sometimes and when we do we love to know it
can all turn out ok that’s what the blues does for you, it’s a friend.
Thank god for people like Alan who help to keep the Blues alive, You're
helping make the world a better place my man, keep it up and keep it
Alan White - earlyblues.com
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