Q&A with powerful guitarist/singer Jay Gordon -- has delivered a sparkling Blues Rocker's solid granite gem

"I believe my music come to me from a higher power. Without a soul you couldn't create it, without a heart you wouldn't feel it, Without a brain you wouldn't be able to appreciate it".

Jay Gordon: Kickin' Blues Ass

Electric blues guitarist Jay Gordon recorded a series of albums for Blue Ace that inspired comparisons to such legendary guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Beginning with Blues Infested (1994), Gordon won much praise from the blues community. Each successive album became increasingly successful - Broadcasting the Blues Live (1996), Electric Redemption (1998), and so on - and the guitarist soon found himself being compared to some of the most legendary guitarists to ever play electric blues. In 2000, Gordon collaborated with Phillip Walker on the Jaywalkin album, yet another accomplishment for the celebrated guitarist. Furthermore, in addition to his guitar playing, Gordon also produces and sings on many of his own recordings.

Chicago born and California sun drenched Jay Gordon has delivered a sparkling Blues Rocker's solid granite gem. The new album “Woodchoppers Ball” (2015) from this seven time award winner, Grammy® Nominee and Gretsch Guitar endorsed artist is a sharp, raw edged Blues diamond that combines intriguing lyrics, outstanding musicianship and is a true memorable listening experience. Seven profound fresh tracks feature artists Sharon Butcher (Bass), Ric Daly, (Drums) , Richie Valens younger brother Mario Ramirez (Saxophone), Rich Wenzel, (Hammond B3) and Rich Gordon (Drums) in different combinations. There are five re-mastered Blues jewels hand picked from Jay Gordon's previous releases that add a certain and honest depth to this new release. Stacked together, these twelve Blues cuts are a clear example of Jay Gordon's and Blues Venom's no nonsense approach to making exceptional Blues Rock.

Interview by Michael Limnios    Photos: Jay Gordon's archive / All rights reserved

Jay, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

From as early as I can remember the first music I heard was the Blues and Gospel. My grandmother played the piano and also sang the Blues.She had a huge collection of blues records, which influenced me at an early age. Some of my first Idols were BB King, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Mctell, Hound Dog Taylor, Lightning Hopkins, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Hendrix, Clapton and the list goes on.

What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?

I started playing in my mothers tavern when I was 11 years old and it went on from there. Some of the songs we played were early Rolling stones, and many cover blues songs by my favorite blues artist, ex. Smoke Stack Lightning, Blues before sunrise, Death letter blues and more.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook?

The whole concept behind my music is to promote the blues, keep it alive, show it's true art form, take it to a higher level and still be able to play rock and roll while showing the marriage between blues and rock in my own style. The most of the songs that I write come from real life experiences, I have written all types of music blues, rock, country, pop ballads, my music is also used in Movies and TV. My philosophy of music is to be well rounded and able to learn as much as you can about all types of music. It makes you a better player for any project you take on.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

One of the moments of my career was -playing live at the Wadsworth Theater in LA in the 80's at an event for willie Dixon (life time achievement award. I sang and played Hoochie Coochie Man in front of Willie Dixon. When I was finished with my set he shook my hand and told me that was the best rendition of the song that he ever heard. He told me that I was the future of the blues, and I felt that I was blessed after that comment.The worst moment was when my mother passed away and I had to do a gig three days later which she was suppose to attend in Hollywood CA.

"The blues has always been with us because that's where it all started."

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?

In my life the blues has always been there for me it strictly means honesty and truth about everyday living weather good or bad. The blues has offered me freedom of my musicality apposed to being a pop artist. It has taken me on a long journey and has opened up opportunities to communicate with people all over the world not just America.

What do you learn about yourself from music?

Music takes me deep inside myself and gives me a total perspective of who I really am. It is the most powerful language in the universe. It has brought me closer to the great spirit. Music is life it's self. It has also made me understand the dedication to this art form that if you don't hone your craft you loose it.

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

I believe my music come to me from a higher power. Without a soul you couldn't create it, without a heart you wouldn't feel it, Without a brain you wouldn't be able to appreciate it.


How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

When I'm on a big stage, when everything is going right, the band is tight and the sound is killer and I'm in my zone I feel that I am at one with my audience. When this happens I feel that they are getting the message that I am delivering.


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

When I was starting out in the business I always surrounded myself with people that were better than me, and knew the music business. Wether they were players, producers, business men etc. Also listening to all types of music and trying to absorb as much as my brain could handle. A lot of practice, dedication, lots of gigs and not being afraid to experiment. A golden ear is better than reading a thousand notes off of a piece of paper. No matter how good you are you have to keep the attitude that you always can be better. There is always more to learn.

"My hopes are to be able to continue to write and play my music for everyone. Put on great shows, spread the love and keep the blues alive and turn the younger generation on to a great style of music. May the blues live forever."

What is the best music advice has given you?

Don't ever try to want to be anyone else otherwise you become a clone and you have no voice of your own. It's very important to learn as much as you can and develop your own style and always remember    no matter how good you get you can always get better because there is always something new to learn. The great late Joe Pass (Jazz Guitarist) told me either give a lesson or take one.

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

I have met most of the famous blues men but there are some that passed on before I got that chance like Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Freddie King.


Media or talent plays the most important role for a artist to get discovered?

Media is very important but you have to have the talent to go with it.

What would you had given to Frank Marino? What would you ask Jimi Hendrix?

The last time I saw Frank play live was in 1979 in Chicago and he was awesome. I think he has everything that he needs. But I do have a couple of good songs that would be good for him to record.

I'd ask Jimi if Janis was as wild in bed as she was on stage. I'd tell him that he was one of the most creative artist of his time.


When did you last laughing in gigs?

This was not to long ago, this young kid in plaid shorts was trying to pick up my wife and our drummers wife all night while we were playing. He looked like he belonged out on the golf course not in a club with a bunch if bikers.

"May it come back with a vengeance and be bigger than ever and let the newer generations learn what the Blues is all about."

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

The blues has always been with us because that's where it all started. Even Muddy Waters said that the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll. I'd like to see the blues become more main stream, This way the younger generations can see where it all started and the effect it has on all kinds of music and people.


How do you see the future of blues music?

As I said before the blues is here to stay. There will always be the purist and guys like myself that will take it a lot further and show the marriage between blues and rock. with all the blues societies in the world and fans that love this music, it still amazes me that so many people ( and I also include musicians in this) don't really know what the blues is all about. It would really be nice to get commercial rock stations to dedicate some time to this great art form weather it be straight up blues or contemporary rock blues. Also more educational programs in schools to teach the children where it all began.


Which artists have you worked with & which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best ?

I have played with many great artist in my time and they all have something special to offer.

Are there any memories from Johnny Winter, Albert Collins, and BB King, which you’d like to share with us?

I have a lot of stories I can share about these great musicians I actually could write a book. One of my favorite stories about Johnny is when I was back stage with him at this one show. These two guys showed up and was trying to pitch their songs to him and Johnny told them if I needed any songs, I'd ask Muddy Waters or record some Rolling Stones music and then Johnny asked them what band they were in and the guy replied Great White. Johnny looked at me and said what kind of a name is that for a rock and roll band it sounds like they should be fishermen. Then we went back to our beers and talked about our tattoos and Muddy Waters.

The first time I met Albert Collins I was driving down Lincoln Ave. in Chicago with my friend big Al in the front seat. Al said look out, there is a guy with his legs hanging out in the middle of the street fixing a tour bus so I swerved to the left to miss him and pulled over to the side of the road. I said hey dude, I almost ran you over anyway we became friends from that day until he died. I'm glad Al saw him because I would hate to be the guy responsible for running over Albert. I miss that cat.

The first time I met BB King I was 13 years old living in Chicago. My stepfather took me to see him play. After the show I had a chance to meet him and he gave me a Gibson Guitar belt buckle which I still have. There were many times but the funniest thing was after this one show in Long Beach, Ca. in 1998, there was Jr Wells, Lowell Folsom, Phillip Walker,Tina Mayfield some other people and myself. BB and I had a very long conversation about where the Blues was going and where it came from, then Phillip came over and the conversation went from being very serious to some really crazy stuff I can't mention.

"My philosophy of music is to be well rounded and able to learn as much as you can about all types of music. It makes you a better player for any project you take on."

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past?

In my opinion in the past the music was played by the musicians not computers.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

My hopes are to be able to continue to write and play my music for everyone. Put on great shows, spread the love and keep the blues alive and turn the younger generation on to a great style of music. May the blues live forever.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change one thing today, the music business would be run like the old days. The industry has total changed and I know you know what I'm talking about.

What has made you laugh from “Woodchoppers Ball” studio sessions and what touched (emotionally) you?

I think the biggest laugh we all got was when we recorded the Chainsaw Boogie in the studio. The whole studio filled with gas and fumes and everybody was going for the door to get air and I'm yelling lets do another take. I recorded 5 takes and we ended up using the first one. What touched me was how everyone worked so hard and did such a great job of recording my music for me.

Are there any memories from Phillip Walker, which you’d like to share with us?

I remember every time I would walk into Phillips night club (Club4) and he'd be up on stage playing and he would see me... He would say Jay Gordons in the house tonight and take his guitar off and hand it to me and say finish out the set kid! So before the night was over we had a couple shots and beers and jam together. That's how we became friends. Phil use to come to my house in Hollywood and I would play him all the music I wrote for him and I to record.That's how we picked the songs for the Jaywalkin CD. I specifically wrote those songs for Phillip in his style. We sure had a lot of conversations about all the people in this crazy business.

One day this will be a long chapter in my book about Phil and all the great times we had. Phil was as good friend and a brother to me. Also one of my memories is when he called me up at 2:30 in the morning from the recording studio to ask me for the words to Rub Some Good Luck On Me ( one of the songs that I wrote for him that was on my Jaywalkin CD) He was recording another version of my song and he had the Memphis Horns playing on it. So I faxed him the lyrics and he said thanks Jay now go back to bed.


What turns you on? Which things do you prefer to do in your free time?

Good music, great movies, good art, a good bottle of wine and my wife sitting by a roaring fire.

Things I like to do in my free time are spending time with my wife and family, riding our Harley with our close friends also when I have a chance I like to catch a great concert and kick back and watch other people do their thing. I also spend time writing new music with Sharon, I'm always planning ahead for our next CD. One day when I have some time I'd like to get an old Cadillac and cherry it out. Other than music I'd like to find time to produce some films.

 

Describe the ideal rhythm section to you? Three words to describe your sound & your progress

For me it's a solid drummer and a great bass player that work as one. That gives me total freedom to create and play my music the way I hear it in my head. Tone, Fire, Passion.

 

How did you begin playing music and when did you know you would do this for a living?

I began banging on my grandmother's piano when I was a young boy and by the age of nine I began playing guitar and by the time I was sixteen I had a whole room full of instruments. I excelled mainly on guitar, that was the instrument which I felt one with. When I started doing gigs and getting paid I thought this is the way to go. Getting paid to do something I enjoy is the best job in the world.

What were your favorite guitars back then, where did you pick up your guitar style?

My favorite guitars in my early days were Gibson Les Pauls and Gibson Firebirds. When these guitars were stolen I began playing Fender Stratocasters which now are my favorite guitars. For slide I still prefer a Gibson Firebird or Les Paul.

When I first started out I listened to everybody and all types of music. Then I decided to create my own style and not become a clone. I think it is very important for one to be his own man and not try to immulate other musicians.


In which songs can someone hear the best of your guitar work?

I have a lot albums out there and on each album I have my preferred cuts. Message to Collins, Stretchneck Lill, also off my CD Blues Venom - No Cure, Slow Burn Biker Mama and Blues Venom. My rock CD Immortal has some great work on it too like, The Sunlight Guards The Day (the saga part 1). Personally I like all my guitar work on all my CD's.

"The blues has offered me freedom of my musicality apposed to being a pop artist. It has taken me on a long journey and has opened up opportunities to communicate with people all over the world not just America."

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

When I was young I listened to all the great blues players and they all had different techniques. I learned a lot of the secrets form the great old blues men who prefected this craft long before I was born. The best teacher was actually playing with those great blues men.

Where did you pick up your slide style?

I picked up my slide style by listening to Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James.

Who are your favorite blues artists, what was the last record you bought?

BB King, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Mctell, Hound Dog Taylor, Lightning Hopkins, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Johnny Winter, Hendrix, Clapton, Warren Haynes, Frank Marino, and the list goes on. The last CD I Bought was the Allman Brothers Live CD.


Give one wish for the BLUES

May it come back with a vengeance and be bigger than ever and let the newer generations learn what the Blues is all about.


When did you first meet Eric Clapton, what kind of a guy is a Slowhand?

I met Clapton in 2004 at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Texas. He is a very humble man.


What do you feel is the key to your success as a musician?

There are many different factors involved but the main thing is I write and play great music. I also have a great team behind me that understands my visions.

"Music takes me deep inside myself and gives me a total perspective of who I really am. It is the most powerful language in the universe." 

Tell me a few things about your experience in West Beach Studios?

I recorded in the West Beach Studio a lot and I miss that place it is no longer there. The last time I was there I recorded a single, a remake of the famous classic rock song "White Rabbit" with my band Jay Gordon and the Penetrators. We were the last band to record there. I always felt that this was my home. It had a great vibe. Every time I recorded there was always happy with the end results. I also recorded my "Jaywalkin" CD there with Phillip Walker. Donnell Cameron has probably got some of the best ears in the business no matter what style of music he is working with.


From the musical point of view is there any difference between BLUES VENOM & the PENETRATORS?

Blues Venom has more pieces in the band and the style we play is more bluesy. This is a four piece band but sometimes it's five pieces when we bring in the Harp player Mario Ramirez (the younger brother of Richie Valens) This is a great band with a killer rhythm section. I believe the new CD speaks for its self. The Penetrators is a three piece power trio. This band plays it all Blues, Classic Rock and Boogie.

What is the impact of Blues-Rock music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

In my opinion the impact of blues and rock music have no boundaries it affects all of us.. It has a message for everyone.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

If I could go anywhere for one day I would go back in time and prevented Jimi Hendrix's death and stood at the crossroads with Robert Johnson and sang and played the blues with him.

Do you have a message for the Greek fans?...and one last, I would like to put a song next to each name & expression:

Blues: The Thrill Is Gone - Guitar: Machine Gun - Johnny Winter: It's My Own Fault - Donnell Cameron: Black Top Alley - Sharon Butcher: Red Hot Tempered Woman...and Jay Gordon: Kickin' Blues Ass

First I want to thank them for all their support. They are great fans, they have purchased many of my CDs over the years. I really hope to be able to play there this coming year and get a chance to meet some of them and thank them personally.

Jay Gordon's Blues Page - Home

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