An Interview with Blues/R&B/Soul/ Guitarist, Singer Dave Widow: I play the blues, because it’s just a natural expression, to me

Dave Widow: Funky, Soulful, Backbeat

Dave, is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, currently living in the Los Angeles area. He and his band, "The Line Up", have appeared on a regular basis at such L.A. venues as The House Of Blues, The Mint, The Langham, B. B. King's Blues Club, The Lighthouse, and many others, as well as venues all across America, and abroad. With his unique style of finger picking, and distinct vocals, Widow brings a fresh approach to the Blues, while also combining elements of R&B, Funk, Soul and Rock. His musical style is influenced by his relationship with many great blues and R&B talents, including Buddy Miles, Bonnie Bramlett, Bill Champlain, Lonnie Mack, and his mentor and collaborator (the late) Roger "Jellyroll" Troy, bassist and vocalist for The Mike Bloomfield Band. 


"The Line Up" consists of some of L.A.’s most noteworthy and well-recorded musicians, such as Gary Mallaber; Drummer on such songs as Fly Like An Eagle, Moondance, Two Tickets To Paradise, and many more. Switching off on Drums is James Gadson; former drummer for Marvin Gaye, Paul McCartney, B.B. King, and many others. Gerald Johnson; Bassist for Steve Miller, CS&N and Dave Mason. David Morgan, Piano and Vocals for Ricky Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band and The Nelsons. Trading off on Bass is Reggie McBride; who has played with B. B. King, Elton John, and Keb' Mo'. 
The group’s CD, "Got It Covered" has generated airplay on Long Beach’s own KKJZ, and others around the USA and oversea’s. It is a must have item in every blues lovers collection! Dave is currently working on his newest CD. 

The new CD features compositions by Dave, and talented singer/songwriter David Morgan, along with songs co-written with Bill Champlin (of the group Chicago & The Sons of Champlin). The CD features Mike Finnigan on Hammond B-3 and piano, David Morgan on keyboards & back-up vocals, Reggie McBride on bass, Gary Mallaber and James Gadson on drums, as well as an appearance by Bill Champlin, Barry Goldberg, and some other very special guests....Dave's new CD showcases Widow with a stellar gang of partners in groove.


Interview by Michael Limnios


Dave, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues, what have been some of your musical influences?

I began getting into the blues when I was first learning to play guitar, back in the early 70’s, by way of bands like the Allman Bros., Eric Clapton, Delaney Bramlett, etc, and some years later, when I first met Roger “Jellyroll” Troy, who was in Mike Bloomfield’s bands, I began working with him, and he turned me onto Bloomfield, and Butterfield, and some of the other blues artists that he had worked with, and admired…I began to look into some of the more original-blues artists like, Bloomfield, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Freddie King, Robert Johnson etc, from more of the first and second generations of Blues artists, to see where it all stemmed from, to help make my understanding of the blues, a bit more complete.


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

I learned some early Allman Bros. Songs like “Elizabeth Reed”, “It’s Not My Cross To Bear”, Even some Beatles tunes, like “I’m Down”, Eric Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Crossroads”, (of course that was Robert Johnson’s original first, but typically I first checked out the 2nd and 3rd generation Blues artists music that I first heard in the early 70’s, before getting deeper into the original writers of that music…The first show I ever saw, was in 1973’, I was 12 years old, and I saw The Allman Bros….I had 3rd row seats, and man, I remember I could barely hear at all, when I left that show! I wish I could have seen Duane play live…That is one of my regrets, but you cant change the era you grow up in, and I was just passed the point in time where I would have caught players like him playing…I enjoy the recordings of him though, just the same…



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

I worked with Buddy Miles a bit, I did several shows with Bonnie Bramlett, I’ve worked a little bit with Bill Champlin, and I had the pleasure of being a regular sit-in with Lonnie Mack, when we were both playing and living around Cincinnati, Ohio in the 80’s …I was very-close friends with, the late-Roger Troy, who I mentioned, in one of the earlier questions…Lately, Bill Champlin, who I consider, a good-friend, he’s a good-guy, a musicians musician, and has always been a supporter of my music… We wrote a song together, called “Second Hand Love”, which will be on my new CD, soon to be released…We’ve been doing a few informal dates recently, around L.A…


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

I think the shows I did with Bonnie Bramlett, were some of the best-shows I’ve ever done-with Bonnie’s great live energy, and the same can be said for my working with Roger Troy, and the gigs we all did together-with Bonnie, and Troy, on some of the same dates….And the day Huey Lewis called and said he wanted to put one of my tunes “On-hold”, to record on a CD-was pretty exciting…My work with Bill Champlin, has been a dream-come true really…

The worst…Well, I think, I don’t have any-one really-bad event, I cant point to, but, I do-dislike, when I have to change players at the last minute, or having to call musicians to let them know a dates have been changed, and then to have to replace guys on a show-who can’t make the new date-due to a tour or a session-they sometimes get called for…Sometimes, I‘ve had to call like 20 bass players, just to get one who’s available to play a date, and that’s a little frustrating, but you have to be flexible sometimes…It can be a little nerve-wracking.


What does the BLUES mean to you, is the “blues” a way of life? Why do you play the blues?

The Blues, to me, in musical form, is really a celebration of life’s ups and downs, life’s changes, loves-lost and gained, money-spent and made, losses of friends, lessons learned, and everybody experiences these feelings, and can identify with most of these emotions…I think these emotions are expressed in the context of most-all blues music…I’m not one of those, who thinks that Blues, is all-a low-down feeling or expression of depressing emotions, although it can be-just that-at times…I play the blues, because it’s just a natural expression, to me, and the blues does incorporate many different styles, and genre’s and I like the way there is room for a lot of lateral movement within the context of playing it, and all of the latitude within, to explore, and the impromptu ways you can interpret it…Blues really ranges in genre’s and styles-from the likes of ZZ Top, Allman Bros, Robert Cray, Keb Mo’, Delaney Bramlett, to, Muddy, Etta, Jimmy Reed, Little Willie John, and I don’t think it can be looked-at with too narrow vision or style, because there’s so many different types or genre’s of blues music out there, with all of the artists-both past and present…



Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Well, I feel like, right now, I’m finally getting wise-enough, to have left some of the bad habits I used to employ behind, and now I have more of the frame of mind, and focus, to accomplish more, and with also better song-writing, and a tighter focus on whatever’s to come, next…I have been fortunate enough to work with some very interesting artists, and play on some pretty cool dates, but now, these days, I feel like I’m better focused into making better-career decisions that hopefully will help propel my career more forward, and take me to new heights & places I haven’t yet been, and accomplish things, I haven’t yet accomplished…One of my goals, to tour in Europe and Scandanavia soon…


Are there any memories of all these GREAT BLUESMEN which you’d like to share with us? 

None I could really elaborate on, but the experience of performing with great players, which is always been one of my greatest joys!


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

If you understand how to get along with others well, it helps, and you need to be able to play, not only as a individual so much-but as a team member, and play not for-yourself, cause you really have to play-for the song…That’s paramount, and having an understanding about how, if the basics are not right, the highlights will not be right either.


What turns you on? If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

Probably, something else musically related…maybe artist management, or music publishing, or something else very closely related…



What mistake of the blues music you want to correct? Give one wish for the music

Well, as much as I enjoy blues-in it’s purest form, I enjoy breaking out of old molds, and working in a little wider scope, combining different elements and styles, and would like to see a little wider acceptance, than what’s generally accepted as the blues, by so called “purists”, as sometimes I run into people, who only think the blues is, only 1-4-5 chords, played the same way-as in 1932, and they might not necessarily accept someone like myself, who runs the gamut, playing what I like, and enjoy, but it’s not necessarily strictly 3 chord blues progressions, all of the time…


What are some of the memorable gigs you've had?

I played outdoors at a show that I played with Bonnie Bramlett, and Roger Troy headlining, and in the band was Rick Jaeger (of Dave Mason), and Rick Braun (before he went all smooth-Jazz), Scotty Page (of Pink Floyd etc), Stan Behrens (of Willie Dixon), Sean Finnigan (Mikes younger brother), and others, and it was a fun day of music by the ocean, in San Pedro, and that was a lot of fun…Now, It seems like there’s a lot of really fun dates, lately, because I get to play with all these really great players…I just played another great gig, just the other night, with James Gadson on drums, Bob Glaub on bass, David Morgan on keyboards, and Bill Champlin came and played guitar and sang, almost the whole show, and that was a gas, and a lot of musician-friends came and sat in with us, and it just turned into one of those nights, where everything came together, and it was one big party, and really fun night!


What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a bluesman?

Honesty, some basic talent, and a certain sense of who I am, and what the world is about, and having gone through a lot, and having experienced a lot of things…


What’s the best band you ever played in?

My own band, because I get to play with so many great musicians.


What does GUITAR mean to you?

That’s the main “tool” of my trade. It speaks for me…


Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

I have never yet met Gregg Allman, and would like to meet him sometime…Most of the greats I would like to meet, that I haven’t met, are dead now…


What are some of your favorite blues standards?

“Before You Accuse Me”, “Statesboro Blues”, “Born In Chicago”, “Killing Floor”, “Down Along The Cove”…


In which song can someone hear the best of your guitar work? Three words to describe your sound & your progress

“Where have you gone”, from my last CD, has a nice guitar solo in it, and my upcoming CD has some good guitar work in it, as well…

Three words to describe my sound…Funky, soulful, backbeat!


Tell me about your meeting with Lonnie Mack, what kind of a guy is Lonnie?

I first met Lonnie Mack, when I was going to college in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I am originally from…He was performing there one day, and a buddy of mine, who was a school mate of mine, said, I should go check him out, that he was very good…So I went to the show, and got to speak with him before hand, and he told me, how he had been basically touring for like 20 some years, all over, and had opened for big acts, done sessions with The Doors, and how he worked for one of the bigger American record companies-I don’t remember which, , and sold knives! This guy was a true musician, and did whatever he could, to keep a life going, and music was flowing strong in his blood…When I heard him, I knew I wanted to ask to sit in, and he reluctantly-agreed, taking a chance, not knowing if I could actually-play well, or not, and I sat in, and I kinda blew Lonnie and his whole band away, cause I don’t really they weren’t expecting me to be able to really play, or play like that, cause I looked like this school kid, and apparently, my style of playing-was really-close to Lonnie’s, and by the looks on their faces, I think-it surprised us both, along with the rest of his band, and all of my schoolmates-who only one of which-knew I could even play guitar…It was a blast, and I remember my school-mates, yelling and screaming, and Lonnie smiling, and that was the beginning of my realization, that I could maybe play professionally, for a living seriously…I played in some bands previous to that, and was’nt a bad guitarist, but I had’nt yet really bloomed, as a guitarist, and not as a singer yet, either…

I was following Lonnie around whenever he would play around town, I was usually there around the end of the night, sitting in with Lonnie and the band…At that time, Lonnie was playing in a band with his younger brother on 2nd guitar, and I would usually take his brothers place on guitar, and sit in, and we would play songs like “I’m A Lonely Man”, and other tunes of Lonnie’s…”Funky country Music” was one of my favorite’s-of his…

I finished school, and ended up with an Associate degree in Business, and around that time-I began playing in local bands again, and that’s around the time I also met Guitarist/Singer Timmy Goshorn, of Pure Prairie League, who along with his older brother Larry, became my dear good friends, and both we worked together in bands, for a little while, with Roger Troy, and Billy Hinds-also of Pure Prairie League…Larry Goshorn and I co-wrote a couple of the songs on my new CD.


Are there any “Blues” memories which you’d like to share with us with your band The Line Up?

I have had so many different great-players I’ve had the opportunity to work with and or write with-in and out of my band, over the last 20 or so years, like Gerald Johnson, Reggie McBride, David Morgan, Gary Mallaber, Freebo, Hutch Hutchinson, Marty Grebb, Mark Williams, Danny Timms, and many many others…I have known and played with all of these great musicians and more, and I have wonderful, and hilarious memories of shows, and trips in and out of town…

I remember one show we did, in Hong Kong, with Gary Mallaber, and Gerald Johnson (both were basically the Steve Miller rhythm section for a time), and we went there to do a show for Eminence Speakers, who’s speakers I endorse, and that was “one-crazy trip”…We flew over to Hong Kong, and could’nt find our escort, or ride from the airport, to where we were performing, for like 3 hours, and we thought we we’re going to have to end up right back on the plane and going back, without even playing, when we finally found our ride, and the band-escort, and made it to the gig, slept 6 hours and flew back to L.A., to do another gig-there…That was a lot of miles traveled in a very little-time, to do a couple of dates…But it was good-fun…


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

Well, it’s an energy exchange, in the purest sense…I enjoy doing “my thing”, and I enjoy when the audience responds to what we’re doing, and I understand that there’s a balance, that cant occur without the audience, and I do dig the energy exchange…I don’t feel like I have to say a lot, I just do my thing, and I know the audience can see I’m putting all I have into the performance, so I’m not trying to fool anyone, or tell stories, and I pretty much let my music speak for itself, unless I’m feeling real talkative, and I might relate some things that I’m thinking about or share a bit more…But most of what I want to relate, is in the music, and lyrics…


How was your relationship with Roger "Jellyroll" Troy? What advice has given “Jellyroll”?

Roger passed away back in 1992, and he was a wise soul…He taught me a lot about life and the blues, and the music business…He introduced me to people, who I might have not met, otherwise, and he really gave me a start, of sorts…I remember I asked him once about methods or developing my singing voice, and he-was-a singer, and he just said, “just keep doing it” “keep singing”, and he was right about that…You do have to persevere, and go forwards, always…He also said something, about always trying to play with better musicians, or ones at least as good as me…Stay away from mediocre musicians-he told me, when I moved out to L.A….Stick with real-players…He also told me, he thought it was a good idea, for me to play without a pick, and I did change my playing style, according to his advise, and am happy with the result it brought…I rarely ever use a pick, and enjoy that way of playing now…


When did you last laughing in gig and why?

Oh, I had this gig, at the Air Force base, here in L.A., and we were playing for this table full of Captin’s, or I’m not too sure of the ranks-but they were simply-uninterested in what we were playing, and on the break, the band went into the kitchen, or mess hall, which was about the size of a football field, and we all got some hot chocolate from a machine that was on the counter, and after getting some drinks, this machine just would’nt shut-off, and we tried everything possible to get this machine to stop pouring out Hot Chocolate all over the place, and nothing worked…So, finally, we had to just give up, so we just left that area and went back to the stage to play, and I could’nt manage to stop laughing on stage, and my stomach was sore from all the uncontrollable laughter, and with the thought of the hot chocolate still pouring out-everywhere-in the kitchen…By this time-it all over the floor in there-I saw a janitor go to the door, take one look--turned around and walked away…

The gig was already a little strange, and I remember finally calling “Stardust”, or something, to try and break the mood of these stuffy officers who were there, and they finally turned their chairs around, and  began to listen to the band, when they heard the jazz-standards, and very shortly after, the gig was over-thank god! I was unable to really completely stop my laughing-fit, and it suffices to say, I don’t think that we ever worked there again-after that little scene…


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

I’ve picked up lots of things, I’m sure, from all of the guys, who I’ve heard over the years…There’s so much to learn, from so many talented musicians, and you can never really know-everything, so that’s an ongoing experience, and I still pick up tricks, or licks, or things that influence my playing, and there’s always something else-to know and learn, although I probably have my style pretty well intact, at this point, I’m still learning, all the time…


How/where do you get inspiration for your songs?

Well, I get inspiration from life’s events, and lessons learned, and emotions, and love gained and loves lost, and just about everything in life gives me some sort of inspiration, and I constantly find myself writing down song titles, and I think of them naturally, when I’m talking about something that happened, or listening to others say things, or telling stories…You never know, where a song will actually come from, until it comes..


What advice would you give to aspiring  musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Do your homework, and listen to as much, and as many styles of music as you can, try new things that you may not already know…If you come across something you don’t yet understand-that’s a good place to start, figure it out, and learn how that new idea is conveyed, or played…Learn the song, phrase, lick, or the chord, and incorporate that new thing-into something else that you know, and move onward, practice what you know, and learn what you don’t yet understand…



How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

Seems like since the advent of CD’s, the music business has gone down hill…It’s changed, and now it takes much less, to get the gear to record a CD, and many people now just do it at home, and don’t have to go blow thousands of dollars in the studio to make a CD, so that’s changed a lot of things, and there are so many more artists, and people trying to make it, and it’s not any easier to make a name for yourself, and that’s for sure…On the flip-side of that, is that there are more more bands, and less you have to break-through, to just put out a CD…That’s only a beginning though, if you are going to even try to make a living, playing music…


What was the last album you bought & what was the best blues album you ever had?

Well, I just bought The Temptations greatest hits-I love all the old Motown stuff, and the best blues album I ever had…Man, that’s hard…I know-one of my favorites is the Etta James CD, with the Muscle Shoals crew playing behind…The one with “Tell Mama”, and honestly, I have too many favorites to name even five of my all time favorites…Theres soo many great CD’s and records, through time, it’s too hard to speak of one favorite…


What are your plans for the future?

I want to get this new CD out-in the next month or so, and I want to tour, and go to play in Europe-that’s something people have always said to me, that man, you need to go play over there, and they will dig you there…


and one last question I would like to put a song next to each name.

Buddy Miles: “Them Changes”, Bonnie Bramlett: ”Let It Rain”,  Bill Champlain: ”Total Control”,  James Gadson: ”LoveLand”,  Roger "Jellyroll" Troy: ”Sweet Soul Music”, and  Dave Widow: ”Second Hand Love”(…upcoming CD)


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