Legendary musician Waddy Wachtel was recently in Australia as guitarist and musical director for Stevie Nicks on her 24 Karat Gold tour, with The Pretenders onboard as support act. Waddy kindly invited Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips and photographer Jason Rosewarne down to soundcheck at Rod Laver Arena for an exclusive video interview … but first some context!
Waddy Wachtel is one of the most sought after session guys on the planet. He has recorded or played live with everyone from The Cowsills, Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Warren Zevon, Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos and The Rolling Stones to Randy Newman, Jackson Browne and Joe Walsh. A lesser known fact is that Waddy is a well-credentialed producer who has worked with many Australian acts including The Church and Mondo Rock.
Much of Waddy’s famous guitar work was played on his 1960 Les Paul Sunburst, a guitar he played “until it was unusable”, as he tells me in the video interview. Gibson reproduced the guitar as instrument #14 in their Collector’s Choice series a few years ago. The original sunburst Les Paul was sold to him in the late 60s by Stephen Stills, who had been using the guitar with Buffalo Springfield. Apparently Stills saw Waddy with the guitar many years later, had forgotten that he had sold it to him and suggested that Waddy was in possession of his stolen guitar! The 60’s sunburst has since been retired from the road and is strictly used only in the studio now.
The musical relationship between Stevie Nicks and Wachtel goes way back to the original Buckingham Nicks album and Waddy has played a large part in Stevie’s solo material ever since, creating many classic riffs including the motoring, staccato intro to Edge Of Seventeen.
On Thursday November 16, 2017 Waddy invited myself and photographer Jason Rosewarne down to the Steve Nicks’ band soundcheck Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. The band currently consists of Waddy, Ricky Peterson (keys), Carlos Rios (guitar), Al Ortiz (bass), Darrel Smith (piano), Drew Hester (drums), Sharon Celani (backing vocals), Marilyn Martin (backing vocals).
Passing through numerous security checkpoints, we arrive at an office to be briefed by Ian, Stevie’s American tour manager who tells us what we may and may not film and photograph. Shoot only what’s on stage, nothing off it and put the cameras away when leaving the stage area. With ground rules set, we enter the arena to find the band sans-Stevie running through the show’s opener Gold and Braid. The band is sounding powerful, melodic and they seem pleased with the room’s acoustics. Next up, the hit song Gypsy. Sharon and Marilyn are taking on lead vocal duties, singing in Stevie’s register. Clearly Waddy is the ring master, watching the band, listening to each musician and indicating when changes are imminent. He’s unhappy with the intro, suggesting it’s bordering on sounding like the Addams Family theme intro. Consequently, the next run through has added spark and energy and he’s happy to move onto another tune. Waddy suggests that they try Crying In The Night (from the Buckingham Nicks album), apparently the song hasn’t been performed much but they rehearse just in case. The band with tongue firmly in cheek, begin again in Addams Family style to Waddy’s great amusement but once they kick in, create a massive sound together. Satisfied with the sound, the band is motioned to leave, apart from piano player Darrel Smith who stays behind to work on the track Landslide together with Waddy. The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde is side-stage watching. They’re the support band on this tour and she’s awaiting their turn to sound check. Waddy stops for a chat with Chrissie before we’re invited back to Waddy’s room for our interview.
After we’d wrapped, Waddy told us he forgot to mention a couple of projects he’s involved with soon that he’d like to give a spotlight to. One of them is an album he is recording with Danny Kortchmar, the American songwriter guitarist who has worked and written hits for James Taylor, Don Henley, Linda Ronstadt and many more. The rest of the band featured on the album includes session legends Lee Sklar (Bass), Russ Kunkel (drums), Jim Cox (Keys) and Steve Postell, a guitarist/singer who has worked a lot with Danny. Waddy was laying down vocal overdubs for this project in hotel rooms while in Australia and New Zealand. The band also plans to tour the album in 2018. The other project that Waddy will be working on in early December is a recording by New Orleans based artist Anders Osborne, which is being produced by drum great Chad Cromwell and engineered by Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Kiss). Look out for both the Kortchmar and Osborne records in 2018.
Here’s our exclusive video interview with Waddy Wachtel.
Thanks to Jason Rosewarne for the photography and Chris Doheny for assistance with the audio.
And here’s a few shots from soundcheck by Jason Rosewarne