An Interview with legendary Micky Moody of Juicy Lucy, Snafu, & Whitesnake: Long may the Blues continue!

"If possible, always play the kind of music that stimulates  your emotions, and try to keep an open mind."  

Micky Moody: Mr. Rock n' Roll Guitar

Micky Moody is best known for his role in the definitive Whitesnake line-up, though his vast and varied career was spawned out of a sixties school band which also included another future star, Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers. Micky quickly graduated to the recording studios via the R&B combo Tramline before touring Britain and Europe with some of the countrys top soul musicians.

Joining the highly acclaimed Juicy Lucy was a large step towards rock stardom, and major tours of Britain, Europe and the USA accompanied a regular output of recorded works. After Juicy Lucy split, Micky co-founded Snafu, combining his rock-style guitar with down-home stateside grooves, and became a major contributor on the song-writing front. Snafu recorded three albums and toured extensively before the individual members headed off to pursue their different ventures. Micky then became engrossed in session work as his reputation as a versatile performer spread. Soon a phone call from David Coverdale assured Micky of a vital place in his future plans, starting with the guitar slot and co-writing position on his forthcoming solo albums, Whitesnake and Northwinds.

As a sideman, Micky has featured alongside such classic British singers as Graham Bonnet, Frankie Miller, Chris Farlowe, Sheena Easton, Roger Chapman, Elkie Brookes and Eric Burdon. Visitors from the states such as Meat Loaf, Matt guitar Murphy, Ben E. King and Walter Trout have all employed his talents to enhance their performances.

Micky's session work has included many T.V. commercials and some film scores. As a writer or co-writer his credits are numerous and include many of the classic Whitesnake favourites. With the Moody Marsden band, he and his guitar sparring partner Bernie Marsden toured extensively and released four albums before continuing their Whitesnake legacy with the Snakes and the Company of Snakes.

In 2000 Micky finally released his first solo album I Eat Them For Breakfast on Armadillo records.


Interview by Michael Limnios


What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
As a child I was taken by my parents to a Christmas pantomime where the special guests were Cliff Richard and the Shadows.  I was aware of their music and, like a lot of youngsters who took up the guitar in the early 1960's, I was especially drawn to the playing of Hank Marvin.   I went to private guitar lessons from the age of twelve, so the first tunes I learned to play where from guitar tutor books.     


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Getting my first gold album (Ready an'Willing - Whitesnake) was  a great moment.  Playing onstage with Eric Clapton was also special.
The worst was performing with Snafu at the huge Roosevelt Stadium in New Jersey supporting Emerson Lake & Palmer.  It was the ugliest drink and drug-sodden atmosphere I have ever experienced.  We should never have supported ELP, this was not our audience and our management were to blame.  We had to leave the stage because of  the abuse, and also to avoid the missiles that were thrown at us from a truly dystopian gathering.      


What do you learn about yourself from music? What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?
I believe the special 'something' that differentiates a good musician from a not-so-good musician is natural ability; you either have it or you don't.  Practice, dedication, experience and inventiveness  helps too!


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues rock music & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?
I loved the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart on vocals.  They could take blues and soul songs and heavy them up, and some of their originals songs sounded very inspired.  Beck played like nobody else, and still does.   I'm also a fan of American guitarist Harvey Mandel, especially the stuff he did in the late 6o's-early 70's and, of course, Eric Clapton in Cream.  Blues rock slide? Early Johnny Winter; Duane Allman; Lowell George; Ry Cooder; Zoot Horn Rollo; Sonny Landreth, and Glenn Ross Campbell's steel playing.
 I think I improved with age!  Some of my best playing is on my solo albums 'I Eat Them For Breakfast' and 'Don't Blame Me'.  I was more in control of my own destiny on those albums.    


What characterizes your “philosophy” about the music?
I've always been fascinated by the number of different styles of music that you can coax from the guitar.  I'm known primarily as an electric guitarist but I have always loved the natural sound of acoustic music.  I've discovered a lot of open tunings throughout the years, and different types of right-hand picking techniques from pick and fingers, thumpick and fingers and flesh (no picks at all).  In the last few years I have written and produced two instrumental albums: 'Acoustic Journeyman' and 'Electric Journeyman'.  Although I've been involved in a lot of song writing over the years, playing the guitar is still my main passion.  People sometimes ask me what is my favourite kind of music, and my answer is always "Good music!"  If possible, always play the kind of music that stimulates  your emotions, and try to keep an open mind.     


Why did you think that Micky Moody, continues to generate such a devoted following?
I don't know if I have a devoted following!  Maybe people appreciate that I've never been afraid to attempt different styles and that I try to express a range of emotions when I play.      


What is the “thing” you miss most from the Tramline? Which memory from the Wildflowers makes you smile?
Tramline: I was only seventeen at the time, in great health with my whole life ahead of me.  Yes, I miss that feeling!  The Wildflowers: Traveling to London with the other three guys in an old van fitted-out with bunk beds; we were so dedicated!  


Tell me about the beginning of Juicy Lucy. How did you get together and where did it start?
Juicy Lucy's Singer Paul Williams had seen me perform in Tramline, Lucas and the Mike Cotton Sound and Zoot Money's band.  He must have been impressed because when Neil Hubbard left Juicy Lucy to join the Grease Band he suggested me to the other guys.  They were rehearsing at a house in the countryside so I went and rehearsed with them and got the job.

"I believe the special 'something' that differentiates a good musician from a not-so-good musician is natural ability; you either have it or you don't.  Practice, dedication, experience and inventiveness  helps too!"

What are some of the most memorable stories you've had from Juice Lucy?
Soon after I joined Juicy Lucy we flew to the United States for a tour which lasted for nearly a month.  It was my first time in America and suddenly I was looking at things and visiting places I'd only seen on television.  New York: we played at the legendary Fillmore East supporting Cactus and Lee Michaels; visited Atlantic's famous recording studio where Roberts Flack was recording with some of the greatest session musicians in the US (including the great Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie on drums).  The Fillmore West, San Francisco where we supported Elton John and The Kinks, and looking out on a warm November day at Alcatraz Prison and the San Francisco Bay.  Los Angeles: two or three nights at the Whiskey A Go- Go, staying at the Tropicana Hotel - Californian groupies!  Boston: two nights at the Boston Tea Party supporting Leon Russell and Elvin Bishop - both had great bands.  Went to Chicago and Madison WN too.
Lots of touring, especially in Germany, and taking over as lead guitarist when members from the original line-up quit.  It was all great experience!  


Any comments about your experiences with Chris Farlowe, Roger Chapman & Bernie Marsden? Would you like to tell your best memory about them?
I was aware of Chris and Roger from my teens back in the north of England.  Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds featured Albert Lee on guitar which was a real bonus for us guitar players.  Tramline supported Family on a club date so I got see them live; Roger singing in that unusual fashion over very original-sounding songs.  So it's been a thrill to actually work with them.  Other great singers I've worked on stage with include Frankie Miller, Graham Bonnet, Gary Brooker, , Paul Rodgers in the Roadrunners/Wildflowers and David Coverdale in Whitesnake.  Bernie and I developed a special understanding as dual guitarists, firstly with Whitesnake, then with the Moody Marsden Band.  It had very little to do with Wishbone Ash or Thin Lizzie, and was influenced by the 60's British Blues players and American Southern Rockers like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.   
Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Snafu?
See above!  On a more positive note, recording the first album at the Manor Studios. We had a nice, tight funky thing going on in the early days.

"People sometimes ask me what is my favourite kind of music, and my answer is always "Good music!"  If possible, always play the kind of music that stimulates  your emotions, and try to keep an open mind."    

Do you remember anything interesting stories from Whitesnake?

I have an incredible amount of interesting stories from my days with Whitesnake.  How many weeks do you have to listen to them?!!  It's impossible to pick out a few as there were so many.  I had some of the best times of my life - it was the 70s, totally politically-incorrect, sexy and indulgent.  That's all I'm saying!


How did you first meet John Mayall, do you remember anything interesting from touring with him?
I was still in London after the breakup of the Wildflowers (1967) and Bruce Thomas, the bass player, discovered where John Mayall lived.  Although I'd already decided that I would move back to my home town and spend some time studying the classical guitar, Bruce wanted to progress in the blues scene.  We took the tube train to Paddington Station and walked a few blocks to Mayall's flat, which was at the top of a house close to the station.  He had no idea who we were but was kind enough to invite us up to his flat, where his new guitarist Mick Taylor sat listening to blues albums.  Bruce gave him his number for future reference and we had a nice cup of tea!  
I met him again the following year when Tramline supported his 'Crusade' band at the Marquee Club in London.  In the spring of 1970, when I was playing with Zoot Money,  we supported him and his drummer-less band on a number of shows on his British tour.  His line-up was very odd: Jon Mark on nylon-strung guitar; Johnny Almond on Saxophones and Alex Dmochowski on bass.  He seemed like quite a private, laid-back person. 

"Being in a position to enjoy playing the guitar professionally, working with hundreds of talented people, writing songs and instrumentals pieces, and being able to afford good instruments."

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

I was very lucky to have started my career in the Sixties and to have developed it in the Seventies.  There was very little in the way of entertainment for the masses apart from music, TV (very limited those days) and film, and most people went to gigs and bought records.  The opportunities were immense, unlike today were the public have so much choice, most of it available through the internet or multimedia.  Recorded works and live performances were treated with respect and giving things for free, or worse, having them pirated, was rarely an option. I also think that, in some regards, technology has made the art of creating and performing music too accessible and instantaneous.  If utilized correctly technology can be put to good use, but practice and dedication to one's instrument will always produce the better musician.                


Why do you think that the blues doesn’t quite get the recognition and respect that other genres seem to get? Give one wish for the BLUES
I'm not sure I agree with your opinion!  I think that after pop and rock, blues is one of the most accepted forms of music to be embraced by a wide audience.  Long may the Blues continue! 

"I would give more thought to the business side of things; there are a lot of smiling assassins out there who have no second thoughts about taking things that do not belong to them - usually money." 

With such an illustrious career, what has given you the most satisfaction musically?

Being in a position to enjoy playing the guitar professionally, working with hundreds of talented people, writing songs and instrumentals pieces, and being able to afford good instruments.


What is the difference and similarity between the LIVE/GIG and the STUDIO feeling? And between your session projects, solo albums and the band’s recording?
There's obviously a big difference between playing live and playing in a recording studio; some people excel in one and struggle with the other.  I think that for most people, playing live is their raison d'etre, whilst the recording studio is a workshop within which you can create.  I've been lucky enough to have had a lot of experience in both, some experiences turning out better than others.  Playing live, there is (hopefully) an atmosphere created by both performers and audience, whereas you have to create an atmosphere in a studio - and concentrate - you have to live with the results!
I'm in control of my own projects so I'm responsible for the outcome.  On sessions you have to try and make the artist/producer comfortable and pleased with your efforts. I'm involved in a new band called Snakecharmer and we're all very experienced - watch out for us!


Are there any memories from the US tour “Best of British Blues”, which you’d like to share with us?
Unfortunately the 'Best of British Blues' tour of 1996 was memorable for the wrong reasons.  The line-up consisted of featured artists Eric Burdon and Alvin Lee, and the band was Aynsley Dunbar, Boz Burrell, Tim Hinkley and myself.  I don't like to talk ill of the dead, but Boz created problems right from the first gig; he was unhappy with the promoter and seemed uncomfortable with the personnel.  Halfway through the tour he went to pieces and couldn't continue, so Aynsley suggested Tony Franklin who'd played with bass with The Firm (Paul Rodgers/Jimmy Page).   The band then seemed to split into two camps: Burdon, Dunbar and Franklin, and Lee, Hinkley and Moody.  Eric Burdon thought that his guitarist should come to the House of Blues in L.A. and perform on stage with us just to show me how it should be done!  What a fucking insult!  Alvin sensed the vibes and a couple of gigs later he booked a plane home.  We didn't even finish the tour.  There were some good moments, but overall, definitely one to forget!           


If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would avoid to do again?
I would give more thought to the business side of things; there are a lot of smiling assassins out there who have no second thoughts about taking things that do not belong to them - usually money.  


Micky Moody - Official website


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